Making change happen: magic words vs. words-in-action


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Organizational change is fraught with buzzwords. We treat many of them as if they were magic words.

They are not.

Try this exercise: Out loud state the name of any popular change initiative (six sigma, customer centricity, etc) and then state the following word…”abracadabra!”

Did anything change?

Seth Godin recently posted on the reassurance of words: “It’s a lot easier for an organization to adopt new words than it is to actually change anything. Real change is uncomfortable. If it’s not feeling that way, you’ve probably just adopted new words.”

Instead focus on words-in-action rather than just words. The clever label and catchy phrase grabs attention, but quickly becomes yesterday’s fad-du-jour if you can’t define it in simple behavioral terms.

Organizational psychologist to the rescue! We know how to provide behavioral specificity to a concept or idea:

  • What does it look like in action?
  • It may be easy to distinguish a really poor from really good example of this in action, but what separates good from great?
  • If you were to calibrate this idea on a 5 or 10 point scale, what words would you use to anchor each number?
  • Where are the hardest transitions? Is it easy to go from 2 to 5, but really hard to go from 8 or 9 to a 10?
  • What is the externally visible part of high performance and what are the parts that others can’t observe?

Now think about the change you want to introduce to your customer contact center or the large-scale initiative on customer service you are about to launch. Have you just provided words that label the initiative or have you actually equipped your team with words-in-action? Would an observer know it when they saw it occurring?

My colleague Ray Brown in Melbourne is encouraging clients to start talking about “clienteering, a word that reflects work done with a customer that doesn’t involve “selling or solving.”. Keep a watchful eye as he articulates what clienteering looks like in action.

How are your customer-facing initiatives defined by words-in-action?

How are you embedding those words-in-action into your coaching and your organizational culture?

BestCustomerConnection, by Marc Sokol

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Marc Sokol
A psychologist with an eye for the ways organizational dynamics make it possible or impossible to delight customers, I see the world from the eyes of customers, employees and leaders who strive to transform customer experience.


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