The Buzz About Change Management Buzzwords

Posted by Paula Alsher on Thu, Feb 18, 2016 @ 12:59 PM

Step into almost any organization on the planet and we bet you will hear the same buzzwords flying around. Whether they are on a scenic, motivational poster hanging on the wall or being overused by people during a meeting, these terms are usually jargon laden phrases that are often related to whatever management trend Change Management Buzz Wordshappens to be going on at the moment.  “I’ll champion that” and “We like to empower our employees” are just a few examples of phrases we’ve heard this past week alone. 

In fact, in our 25+ years in the Change Management Industry, we’ve heard enough buzzwords to play the proverbial buzzword bingo several times over.  So, we thought we’d take some time to do a “deep dive” into some of our industry’s most popular buzzword terms and offer our insights into each one.


The Truth Behind Change Management Buzzwords

Buzz Word: Change ManagementChange Management

Let’s start with the elephant in the room.  Some people believe the term Change Management in and of itself is simply a buzzword.  We agree the term can have multiple meanings, and so we prefer the term “Implementation Management” to describe a focus on a disciplined and structured approach to the human elements of project implementation. As Change Management experts we know there is great value in having a set of core principles guide your way during any organizational changeIn fact, how change is implemented is just as important as what is being implemented.  

Every organization can become better at implementing change projects by applying process, discipline and rigor {Tweet This}. Many senior executives believe “Change Management” is something that can be done by other people who spend their time completing templates and forms.  We would recommend these leaders focus less on “doing Change Management” and more on driving change through their own actions and behaviors with their direct reports.  Implementations would certainly be faster and more successful.


Buzz Word: SponsorshipSponsorship

You’ve probably heard the term Sponsorship many times and in many different scenarios.  But the truth is Sponsorship is the most critical success factor in ensuring a fast and successful implementation of any type of business change.  When we talk about Sponsorship, we aren’t talking about one individual Sponsor.  We are seeking a cascade of demonstrated commitment by leaders, level by level across all the impacted areas of the organization.  That’s why it’s so important both Authorizing Sponsors and Reinforcing Sponsors understand their role through change management training for Sponsors, ideally training that is tied to a specific project. 

Nothing is more important than generating durable Sponsorship if you want fast and successful implementation! So, before you start implementing your next project make sure your leaders know what it takes to truly lead change.


Buzz Word: Culture ChangeCulture Change

The terms “culture” and “culture change” are more than just a Change Management trend. When an enterprise-wide change such as such as Shared ServicesERP Implementations, Business Transformation, or Lean Six Sigma are on the agenda you are likely talking about a change that has cultural implications.  In this situation you are ultimately left with two very difficult options, you can “change the change” so that you strip it of anything that doesn’t fit culturally, or you can change the culture.

If culture change is the path you choose, a series of workshops that describe the new culture, or communications from the top about what you want the new culture to be are just not going to cut it. The only way to implement actual culture change is to integrate the behavioral elements of the new culture into the daily business activities, and by dramatically changing the reinforcements managers apply on a daily basis with their direct reports.  And yes, it requires Sponsorship to make that happen!

Buzz Word: CollaborationCollaboration

Many complex changes in organizations today involve enterprise-wide change, where you are seeking to break down organizational silos and achieve some level of standardization.  At the heart of these types of changes is the desire to have the organization operate more collaboratively. 

But, too often, we throw around words like "collaboration" or operating "cross functionally" without truly defining what that would look like behaviorally.  Then we expect people to just do it. Building a collaborative culture is difficult, and it will not happen simply by having people attend a single workshop or complete an online course on “becoming collaborative.”

These cross-functional changes require new behaviors.  Defining what you are seeking behaviorally is critical. Remember, process follows reinforcement! Therefore, you need to identify what you mean when you say our organization is operating cross functionally, or collaboratively, in order to have Sponsors demonstrate commitment through what they say, what they model, and what they reinforce.


How to Stop Buzzwords from Buzzing

One of the cautions we have for Change Agents who leave our AIM Accreditation programs is that they should not go back to their organizations and talk about Change Management!  Why?  Because the less buzzwords that you use, the more you will be able to get people to stand up and take notice of what you say! 

So, instead of talking about Change Management, Sponsorship, Culture Changes or Collaboration, we recommend using terms and topics from the Frame of Reference of the target audiences.  For example, if you are taking to Executive Leaders, rather than using industry buzzwords, try talking about how you can help get projects done faster, better, and at a higher level of quality

Or better yet, rather than talking about your strategies, just put your Change Management skills to work.  Stop talking, and start doing. That’s our best recommendation for taking the buzz out of buzzwords. 


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Topics: Sponsorship, Change Management Methodology, Culture