The learning around ‘change programmes’ is clear.

Have good leaders in place who can paint a picture of the future, make the benefits clear, and tell a story that carries everyone through the process.

Simple, and rational.

Then why, even when these conditions are in place, do change programmes not seem to ‘work’?

A theory.

Change, and human beings, are just not this…. reasonable.

Dip into any of the major streams of 20th century psychotherapeutic thought, and a common theme is clear.  We are all relational beings.  We are not autonomous, rationally driven, units of thought and action.

Winnicott, for example, famously said there is ‘no such thing as a baby’….by which he meant that a young baby is always in a relational dance with a mother. (Or a primary carer).

And at work we are all in a relational dance – more mature and socialised – with our environment, our colleagues, our work, and our leaders.

Winnicott introduced a key concept in the development and changing of a young child – the transitional object. The cuddly toy, the blanket, the loved object, acts as a kind of half-way house between safe dependence and new external independence.

Organisational change charts an eerily similar course.

Teams are asked to leave what is familiar and move to the new.

This big ask is handled as a rational process.

Management points to benefits and longer-term gains, and employs ‘pain now, rewards later’ arguments.

But if we apply Winnicott’s thinking, rationality is of only marginal help.

The experimenting and trying on of new identities via transitional objects is the profoundly necessary part of the change process.

Are we ignoring an important need?

Where are the adult versions of traditional objects?

A small person would experience change that is managed via rationality and reasonableness – yet without the learning opportunity and support of transitional objects – as brutal.

It is possible to be too …reasonable.
















W80pxtreehat a week.

International Women’s Day, WOW on London’s South Bank, company training days and conferences timed to coincide with the ‘go, diversity’ mood.

Loving the energy, loving the get up and go. So time now to calm down, breathe deeply, and reflect. (And what an excellent place a café is for doing just that).

Yes, across the world injustices must be put right. Cruelties must stop. But what about the world of business? We really really need something different to happen. The numbers now wash over me. The 25% target for women on FTSE boards by 2015 won’t be met.

And I’m not sure that I care.

When a problem is framed as a numbers problem then the answer will be a numbers answer.

This just isn’t about numbers.

This is about changing the very culture of business, not replacing men under pressure with women under pressure.
How else will short-termism, narrow views of success, obsessive hunting for numerical growth, separateness from communities and society, pressures to conform..…and in some cases the corruption and entitlement that does so much harm to all of us…ever be challenged?

I’m not interested in more women joining the game. I want more women, working with men, to change the game.
And that’s when reverse alchemy came to mind.

I have participated in, run, listened to, several different sessions and programmes to help women succeed over the last couple of weeks. They have addressed becoming more confident, learning to negotiate, learning how to disagree without being disagreeable – you know the kind of thing. They have radiated generosity and goodwill.
Yet what I notice is brilliant, golden, individuals all learning how to be accepted in the current (barely changed) business culture. All learning how to adapt.

No matter how many times a session exhorts everyone to ‘be themselves’, the premise is still, if we are brutal, the same.
Be like this. It’ll get you further’.

Look, anything that helps confidence has got be good, hasn’t it?

But I worry: if you do what you did, then you get what you’ve got. What if ‘outsider’ qualities are the very dynamite needed to ignite the current ‘insiders’ (men under enormous pressure, and women who’ve done wonders) to change how things are done?

What if true confidence grows from actively not ‘joining’, from actively remaining radical?

What if unwittingly the golden-ness is being trained out of talented young women? What if an unintended tragic reverse alchemy is happening?

A review of Stella McCartney’s latest collection reported that she had wanted women to feel so good they could ‘unravel’ a little.

Sounds spot on to me.
Stay gold, and unravel a little.

That’s how to change the status quo.