Stating the Obvious

Stating the Obvious

As I move into the writing phase of my book, questions about the relevance of my content are flooding my mind. “Would this be valuable to my future reader?” “Should I include something that appears to be just good common sense?”  “Am I stating the obvious?”

From my experience, many change initiatives run afoul because the basics of good design or project management are not in place. Some aspects of the start-up phase are overlooked in the interest of ‘getting on with it.’ These oversights can even happen to organizations that know better based on past experiences. In 2000, Jeffery Pfeffer and Robert Sutton published a book called ‘The Knowing-Doing Gap’. They explore “why knowledge of what needs to be done frequently fails to result in action or behaviour consistent with that knowledge.” Just because you know something doesn’t mean your actions will be guided by it.

For example, when I helped implement a new ‘Cadillac’ commercial strategy process that was linear, thorough and well-suited for the business. We knew that simplicity leads to easier adoption, however, the methodology required 22 templates to be filled out. Twenty-two is a big number and the thought of teams around the world filling out all of them should have set off a warning flare.

Throughout the launch, leadership teams from around the world expressed concern over the number of templates. They responded in three ways: some businesses chose not to implement the process at all because their teams “did not have the time to fill out 22 templates!” Others dutifully spent months completing every template. And the remaining businesses created custom processes that used a self-selected subset of the templates. 

The varied approaches limited the benefits of the new strategy process because many of the them were tied to consistent application and roll-up across geographies. A design oversight, that in hindsight seems to be just good common sense, had significantly compromised the value of this ‘state of the art’ change program.

So, how does this shape my thoughts around content for my book? I have decided not make assumptions about what is just common sense or obvious. They are relative terms, which are based on context. My perspectives are different from my readers’ based on the different experiences we have had.

I will include everything I know about successfully leading an organizational change. Some parts may be just good common sense and some may be obvious. And that’s O.K.



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