top of page

Socialization is NOT Part of Real Change Management

No surprises in a meeting

Lean Enterprise or any other approach to Business Excellence starts with the needs of the Customer. Often, the customer is a set of stakeholders internal to your organization. These customers are essential for their buy-in and ongoing support of the changes that need to be implemented.

In one organization I worked with a few years ago, the executive responsible for change management used the word “socialize” as if he were getting paid five dollars every time it came out of his mouth. What he meant was that he wanted to brainwash the decision makers as to his way of thinking prior to meetings where the decisions would be made.

In this context, “socialize” has the exact meaning that he subconsciously intended. Per the Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press 2019, to socialize is to train people or animals to behave in a way that others in the group think is suitable. Example: Here at the school we make every effort to socialize these young offenders. Other dictionaries I consulted have similar definitions and alternate meanings, but they all in one way or another support this definition.

This is NOT Lean Thinking! This is an example of “I am right, and it’s my job to make everyone accept the changes that are coming.”

Rather than “socialize” a change, why not use the opportunity of speaking with each of the stakeholders to inform them of what you have in mind. At the same time, actively seek their opinions and suggestions. Keep your mind open to possible changes to your ideas that will both improve the outcome and convey to the stakeholders that their support is essential. With you having listened to them (not necessarily having adopted all of their recommendations), the likelihood that they feel ownership of the changes required is greatly increased.

There are many purposes for holding a meeting. One is to gain acceptance of a proposal for change. In such a meeting, the recommendations for change should come as a surprise to no one, with the possible exception of the key executive. The stakeholders will notice the adaptions that you’ve made, and more of them will be in a position of support rather than blockage.

And while we are at it, let’s stop using the word “socialize” in this context. Since we have no organization that governs the use of the English language, the major British and American dictionaries opt to include word meanings that gain acceptance over time. Let’s make sure that socialize continues to mean enjoying time with friends and colleagues, or forcing Socialism on people, which of course I hope doesn’t ever happen again. If you don’t help in this endeavor, I’m afraid “socialize” will become the next “at the end of the day.”

bottom of page