This is the last post in a series. I have been talking about how to respond to a client who wants you to give him or her a big-picture view of what the organization will have to address to fully realize the goals of a large change initiative. In my first post, I shared some suggestions for answering the question, “What is a realistic set of expectations I should have about embarking on this change?” In the second post, I began answering the second question: “Can you give me some general DOs and DON’Ts that will likely apply to what we’re facing?” Below is the second half of that answer.

The Don’ts of Ongoing Turbulence (What to Stop or Reduce)

1. Don’t wait for things to slow down—they won’t.

2. Don’t tell yourself and your employees that the organization is just one change project away from tranquility.

3. Don’t feel sorry for yourself because life has become so challenging.

4. Don’t waste time getting better and better at what is becoming more and more obsolete.

5. Don’t assume stress is always bad. (A certain amount is necessary for learning.)

6. Don’t waste energy resenting that:

–   no one knows how much you do for the company,

–   you’ll never be paid or appreciated as much as you deserve, or

–   people do things to make your work harder than it needs to be.

7. Don’t be resentful or lose trust when your boss doesn’t have all the answers.

8. Don’t depend more on rhetoric and hype than action and accountability.

9. Don’t be enamored with your own achievements. (Complacency and arrogance inhibit the development of new expectations.)

10.  Don’t be enticed by the excitement of initiating change and then become bored or distracted with what it takes to sustain it.

11.  Don’t rely solely on your own knowledge and perceptions to determine what to do next.

12.  Don’t think you and your employees are entitled to feel comfortable during major change and that someone is at fault if this doesn’t happen.

13.  Don’t think only in terms of your own survival and prosperity. (It will invariably destroy the people and things around you and ultimately lead to your own self-destruction.)

14.  Don’t let fear of abandoning what has worked in the past prevent you from exploring new options.

15.  Don’t be surprised at life’s surprises.

16.  Don’t pursue what you want so hard that it stifles what you need.

17.  Don’t invest time and resources on seductive sideshows that divert your attention and resources from your main purpose.

18.  Don’t ask for things others can’t influence, or offer things you don’t own.

19.  Don’t let your need for approval or financial security hinder you from the future you are here to unfold.

20.  Don’t work with change agents who put protecting their relationship with you ahead of being frank and straightforward about risks that are jeopardizing the success of the change (particularly when you are part of the problem).

21.  Don’t look for the one right answer. (It inhibits selecting the best one among the many viable options.)

22.  Don’t treat disappointment as your enemy and success as your friend. (They are both short-lived and will eventually reverse positions.)

23.  Don’t attempt to eliminate complexity. (Instead, find the hidden simplicity it harbors.)

24.  Don’t believe that all paradigms but yours have a shelf life.

25.  Don’t think in terms of rewards and punishments. (There are only consequences.)

26.  Don’t bet on getting through this without first being humiliated and then humbled by what you didn’t know.

27.  Don’t assume those resisting the change are against you. They are more likely just for themselves.

28.  Don’t obsess about making all the parts work better and better. (Sometimes the answer is in their relationship to each other.)

29.  Don’t fall prey to feeling victimized. (There may be options you don’t want to exercise, but you’re never trapped.)

30.  Don’t think you can buy realization outcomes by making installation payments.

31.  Don’t be so focused on what you do that you fail to bring forward who you are.

32.  Don’t be afraid of negative reactions. (You may need to find a constituency that values your kind of contribution.)

33.  Don’t fail to follow through on your promises. It teaches people to ignore you.

34.  Don’t be afraid to rid yourself of people who:

–   are easily intimidated or discouraged,

–   are arrogant or timid,

–   have a low tolerance for ambiguity,

–   are unable to learn from their mistakes,

–   find dynamic tension unbearable, or

–   are “cowboys” who can’t live within agreed-to limits or “bureaucrats” who rigidly stay within the lines.


Let’s revisit the two questions asked by our hypothetical client:

  1. In general, what should I expect when embarking on a change intended to transform our business?
  2. Can you give me some general DOs and DON’Ts that will likely apply to what we will face?

Here is how I would respond:

A client who would cut to the chase like this should be responded to in kind. I would first select and then discuss the realistic and unrealistic assumptions that seem most appropriate for the person’s situation. I would then review the DOs and DON’Ts that appear to have the most relevancy for the circumstances being faced. After a lengthy exchange (possibly more than one discussion), I would close with—“If all this sounds difficult, it’s because it is. If it were easy to deal with unending transitions, there wouldn’t be a competitive advantage to pulling it off. Successfully navigating ongoing change is incredibly difficult and places a disproportionate responsibility on leadership. Yet, for those who pay the price, the rewards and self-satisfaction are immense.”

There are many ways to interpret and answer these two questions. How would you go about it?

Go to the beginning of the series.

Next: An interview with Peter Meyer.