Re: Change vs. Development LO56

C. B. Willis (
Thu, 9 Feb 1995 21:37:07 -0800 (PST)

If I look back over my personal history as an example of process, I
can only say I *changed* in *retrospect*, but from the perspective of
standing in the present looking at the future, I was aware of
*developing*, taking one step at a time, always seeking to orient to
essentials. Sometimes I have had to reassess my orientation to
essentials, but it still *felt* like continuous improvement and

To make sense of change in a positive way, I would need to
imaginatively stand in the future and look back at the present, then I
could say I will have changed.

There is also a distinction to be made between being wrong vs.
making someone wrong. The solution to the first is to correct an answer,
and the solution to the second is to correct the accuser's attitude. And
even when one corrects another, such as a parent or supervisor would do,
is it ever necessary to "make someone wrong" even if they _are_ wrong? No,
so again the question in the present is always *development* rather than
change--where do we go from here?, what's the next step?

I realize this is a subtle bit of ordinary language analysis, but I
submit that it does make a difference in how we look at our business

C.B. Willis

> > I like the term "development" rather than "change". Change
> implies
> > we're not OK, and seems to many to invalidate all of the hard work
> and
> > good intentions that brought us to the present point. Development
> says,
> > "OK, here we are in the present set of circumstances, what are the
> next
> > steps to be even better, to get even better results?"
> If we're talking purely about the words we use to communicate
> something, "development" does honor past intentions and work. As a
> matter of establishing a corporate culture, I would offer an
> additional perspective:
> By softening our language to "honor" the past, past decisions,
> etc., we run the risk of allowing ourselves to believe that _all_
> those intentions and decisions were good. In fact, a lot
> of them probably *were* dysfunctional, short-sighted, and wrong.
> Especially when it comes to learning, it's important to recognize
> when your decisions/intentions are wrong, so you know you have more
> learning to do.
> Would you rather fly with a pilot who has good intentions and has
> done a lot of hard work to learn to fly, or fly with one who has
> passed a certain high competence test? When it comes to helping
> someone move further than they've done in the past, I like
> "development." When it comes to evaluating whether our movement
> is in the right direction, we need to be able to say
> "No, my last set of decisions was plain WRONG."
> This verbal whitewashing seems quite prevalent in business, where
> unethical behavior and incompetence are often cloaked in sugary
> language that lets us quietly avoid grappling with hard issues.
> No, Virginia, we're not "downsizing." We're laying people off.
> No, Virginia, we're not "maximizing shareholder value via
> restructuring." We're making the CEO and board of directors $47MM
> richer at the expense of 10,000 employees' jobs and future
> astronomical LBO debt payments. [based on the Safeway LBO]
> No, Virginia, our VP didn't make an "strategic misstatement;" he
> outright lied to our vendors.
> [At an IPO I was recently involved in, the I-bankers kept insisting
> they were just trying to get people to be "team players," while
> giving certain shareholders advice which they knew would fatten the
> I-bankers' pockets while leaving the shareholders several hundred
> thousand dollars poorer. It wasn't really about "team playing."
> It was about greed, pure and simple. ]
> I would rather create a culture in which we can say "I was wrong,"
> realize it's just another part of learning, and move on.
> Maybe on the way to that culture, we go through a "develop" stage.
> But as you point out, change ISN'T the same thing. And sometimes, we
> may need a total break from past policies. "Developing" from past
> policies may not be enough, unless we're truly just using "develop"
> as a euphamism for "change."
> [Caveat: at my last job, my boss informed me that in 15 years of
> managing, I was the only employee he had ever had who was brutally
> honest about what was wrong with my project, what mistakes I'd made,
> and how I'd recovered, etc. So while I feel strongly about the
> issue, this may be more a personality quirk of mine than anything
> that's translatable to the 'real world.']
> Summary: "develop" is a nice stepping stone, but I want my ultimate
> culture to be one in which change, being wrong, and making mistakes
> are thought of as daily, acceptable occurrances in how we live and
> learn.
> - Stever
> ---------------------------------------------------------------
> Stever Robbins
> Accept no substitutes!
> "You're only young once, but you can be immature forever."