Toxic Cocktail Recipes — Fast Talk and Quick Cures

organizational change management

Credit: Paramount Pictures

How do we stay clear of buying toxic cocktail recipes; who’s selling them — or worse yet, drinking toxic cocktails in organizational change management (OCM)?

Should they be shaken or stirred for targeted congregations?

En vogue tent revival meetings and healing crusades (conducting purported miracles), slick club and marketing events with preachers and their entourage sermonizing we are at inflection points.

Going city-to-city socializing that outdated management and workplace practices must change; we are in desperate need of rain to save our crops — igniting and accelerating a shift in business culture to value humans first.

  • Pop clairvoyance racket (“not all oracles are equally Delphic”) with over-simplified feel-good platitudes, jockeying for real estate and cashing in on the whole new mind craze.
  • Elite college professors in the MBA factories, management theorists, and the top-tier consulting herd retooling en vogue When Work Has Meaning — New Age real estate — How to Turn Purpose into Performance, Making Empathy Central to Your Company, The Secret to Leading Organizational Change is Empathy.

The Look at Me, Listen to Me self-promotion for the herd of businesses selling their recipes is turning into “market fatigue” for targeted congregations.

“You get what you settle for,” Louise tells Thelma in the film, Thelma and Louise.

Organizations, likewise, see what they want to believe, hear what they want to think, and then act on it.

organizational change management

Changing How We Change

Enough of the curated or re-curated evangelizing and Leap of Faith.

The adherence to this sermonizing, including their vocabulary, argues R.D. Rosen, doesn’t “belong to them so much as to the current guru of choice or best-selling self-help book. It’s as if they rented their insights for the occasion.”

Psychobabble, says Rosen, represents the rejection of narration in favor of psychological ad copy.

“It is an idiom,” Rosen adds, “that reduces psychological insight to a collection of standardized observations, that provides a frozen lexicon to deal with an infinite variety of problems.”

Fast talk (cultivated arsenal of skills) and quick cures (real miracles sensibly priced) in this new era of feeling

Enough of using metaphors, other figures of speech and backup gospel choirs to tell and sell brand stories — tag lines (techniques), messages (tips, a leap of faith) and brand creativity (targeting troubled, drought-stricken business communities with inner fortitude).

En vogue tent revival meetings and healing crusades are one thing.

It is quite another to stay behind to make it rain.

The devil’s in the details.

The Details

For decades, profs at the top of the business school food chain, elite consulting houses, change agents and practitioners, have been sermonizing on organizational change and healing crusades that are sensibly priced (for whom?):

  • Using command and control (C2) organizational and technical attributes and processes.
  • Instrumental conditioning (learning) — reinforcing organizations’ goals for new behavior — setting targets, measuring performance, and granting financial and nonfinancial rewards.
  • Organizational change management (OCM) using cognitive pathways, behaviorism and behavioral systems in organizational behavior management.
  • Behavioral systems where objective knowledge, results-based (zero-sum, win-or-lose) approaches to improving performance is the map.
  • Performance (process) improvement — standardized tasks, activities, and human skills are allocated and integrated into organizational processes, technical attributes and processes to create automated functions and behavioral annotations.
  • Scaling behavioral mental models and conventional extrinsic behavior and motivation (employee-by-employee) as the benchmark or gold standard for competitive edge or discipline in operations management.
  • Leadership tasked and compensated to “represent knowledge” and make solutions clear or evident to the eye of the beholder.
  • Prescribed solutions to implement or be used by Followers (employees).

But this leadership, thinking, and functioning often perpetuates learned helplessness in organizations — “managers who build concentric circles of excuses that absolve them of accountability for change or improvement.

Spreading like an infection, Ron Ashkenas adds, this learned helplessness has the power to permeate the culture of an organization. Managers pass it on from group to group and level to level.

Instead of finding creative ways to deal with regulations or budget cuts, Ashkenas argues, managers accept the status quo and blame external conditions for the problems that exist.


Shifts in mental models, Mark Bonchek says, go deeper than traditional thought leadership.

“Most thought leadership tries to establish a company as an expert within the existing mental model. Shifts in thinking challenge the prevailing model.”

The problem is that data, information, and value, Bonchek adds, are not enough to sell innovative products.

To sell your idea to executives, buyers, and users, he contends, you have to change not only what they think, but how they think. They will not see the problem, understand the benefits or make the change without the right mental model.

Think of these shifts in thinking, Bonchek highlights, like learning a second language or building a new habit — a mental habit. People need to see how this new way of thinking plays out in different contexts and situations.

Steering Clear

Organizations everywhere are not set up for agile change. Leadership, their senior staffers, general managers or product owners are often busy relentlessly communicating about change imperatives. Yet the design of these organizations ensures the playing field favors command-and-control landscapes and optics — controllability, stability, routinization, risk-avoidance, zero-tolerance for error or failure, and even more ugly, deference to authority.

OCM-as-Usual won’t cut it. OCM can no longer promote, curate (over-and-over again), market or sell the perception or thinking biased (tipped) toward categorical or dichotomous perception and thinking where leaders lead while other efforts are employee-led (better known as managing from the middle).

Where certificate methodologies and toolsets, and projects are habitual enablers or force multipliers for traditional waterfall release (normalizing the abnormalit’s still abnormal!).

Employees are tired of experiencing a sense of emptiness while working says Katherine Train, because of their managers operating on auto-pilot or marginalizing the authentic human they should be in charge of in their workspace.

The role of OCM is becoming less about business as usual. Less about punching through discrete change projects.

Furthermore, it is time to cut back on money, Adam Grant and Jitendra Singh argues, as a leading motivational force in business.

Employers must pay greater attention (not just lip service) to intrinsic motivation.

Designing and managing jobs that provide employees opportunities to make choices, develop skills, and do work that matters.

Promoting and building cultures that maintain the conditions for meaningful, authentic interpersonal connections.

Walking the talk of contributing to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.

Authentic leaders, change agents and practitioners, leave a legacy. They do so, says Robin Sharma, by adding value to everyone that they deal with and leaving the world a better place in the process.