Philip Whiteley's Blog

March 26, 2014

People don’t hate change. People hate stupidity

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 12:36 pm

I’ve nothing against accountants and finance directors, really I haven’t. I just challenge the idea that they should be the only ones in charge. The extent to which accountancy still dominates the way in which businesses are reported on, analysed and managed is absurd. We don’t travel to work via horse and cart or boats propelled by galley slaves, so why do we still use the quarterly report of the financial accounts – a 15th Century invention – to hold companies to account and analyse costs for the purposes of business planning?
It goes like this. You have an underperforming business. Profits are under pressure. Ah, the bean-counters say, some salaries are high and we have a lot of office space. If we reduce costs, we’ll restore margins! So they freeze or cut salaries and posts, and move to open-plan offices, hot-desking and the like. People will resist this, naturally. But people hate change! They tell themselves. So they impose change upon resistant people, and see if it works. If it fails, of course, they’ll blame the resistance, not the plan.
What such plans fail to incorporate is an understanding that an organization is a human community, not a set of resources with costs. And this community behaves in unpredictable ways. If you tot up the costs as they appear on the balance sheet you appear to have aggregate costs, but you don’t, because most of the bigger costs don’t appear, and they can go wildly up or down depending on how these complex sentient beings called humans respond to change. So if a wage freeze prompts people to start leaving in droves, costs shoot up, because high turnover is expensive (and routinely not measured). Very probably customers depart also. If an open-plan office is inappropriate for the business, because a lot of confidential conversations are necessary (I’ve heard this comment twice in the past few weeks from people protesting at stupid change), then a lot of time is wasted looking for meeting rooms.
The idea that people hate change is nonsense. It’s the most obviously wrong theory spouted by the MBA brigade (and there is fierce competition for that accolade). Human beings are the most restless, curious species there is. We are easily bored. We love change. That’s why we’re always looking at our smartphones and gossiping over a coffee. We want to find out what’s new and we’re disappointed if it’s nothing major.
What people hate is not change; it’s poorly thought-through accountancy-based reorganizations that damage the organization as well as our careers. We don’t hate change, we hate stupidity. Unfortunately, there is rather a lot of it.



  1. […] You can read the full blog here. […]

    Pingback by People don’t hate change | Radical Shift — March 28, 2014 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  2. […] of the beliefs, on which I have written at length, (see also this blog) is that the wage cost is the sole or dominant part of the employment cost. In […]

    Pingback by Evidence is not enough | Philip Whiteley's Blog — August 26, 2014 @ 3:35 pm | Reply

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