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This chapter is from the book

Everybody Is an Expert on People Issues—Or Are They?

The change expert has to get his expertise recognized by people who reckon they are “pretty good with people,” except everybody reckons they are pretty good with people. As you will see in Chapter 6, “Misunderstanding Human Behavior,” it is in this arena that people have the biggest gap between their confidence and their competence.

Change experts can be wet blankets. We make projects more socially complex, raise stakeholder risks, recommend involvement (usually), challenge cultural norms, and require resources and senior leadership time to address those risks. We advocate time-consuming engagement up front: “It is doubtful that engineering will accept that quality control process without extensive involvement in its design.” We have to challenge leaders personally: “Your personal style is effective in many situations, but it will be a liability in this one.” When we give reasons for things, those reasons are couched in psychological/sociological language that does not always play with project leaders and budget holders schooled in finance. (What executive under pressure wants to hear, “People may feel threatened and defensive,” or “This may conflict with their cultural preferences and preferred communication style”?)

In today’s businesses, with change expertise only in the hands of specialists, and top-down change the norm, it is an error to assume people will play nicely. The change expert throws cold water on that convenient error, introducing the near certainty of resistance to change. In Chapter 2, “From Change Fragility to Change-Agility,” I speculate that certain business cultures (with the right mindsets, structures, and processes) could make this kind of change resistance a thing of the past.

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