Change for change’s sake?

I was speaking with a colleague the other week and considering review of a working group that has lost its vim. Whilst its purpose remains clear, the manner in which it operates is in need of a little shake. Nothing too vehement but something to help refocus – some change for the sake of change. So we’re going to stop doing one or two things, review membership, redress the bounds of operation etc.

Of course the ‘c word’ can be perceived in many different ways depending on who is controlling the change, who is effecting the change and who is feeling the change – positive, negative but often not contentious at all.

But there is a quotation out there (admittedly that I can only find attributed to one Travis J Hedrick – Pastor, Community Leader, Educator, Corporate Trainer, & Songwriter…) that says “Change for change’s sake is a recipe for disaster.”

I disagree. It’s only disastrous sometimes.


  1. Agree it does no harm to refresh things – it’s an intuitive skill that’s needed, I believe, to give people another perspective on the ‘familiar’.

    Dianne Thompson, head of Camelot, said recently that she disliked the advice ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and prefers ‘innovative or die’.

    I’d paraphrase and say ‘innovate or watch your ideas die’.

  2. I’m with you.

    The human race is superbly equipped for change and many thrive on it.

    But our overconfidence in our ability to adapt might also be our downfall [climate change – discuss]. And the desire for progress, modernisation, invention or simply tinkering with something just to see what happens or make our mark can create an unmanageable state of flux if the issues are big enough.

    So sometimes a change is’t as a good as a rest. There’s a place for equilibrium too.

  3. If the change has no apparent purpose then it’s certainly a recipe for disaster. The people being asked to change need to know why and how. Additionally, the intended results must be clearly communicated.

    You also have to consider the organization’s history with previous change initiatives. If some new idea “that’s going to completely change the way we do business” comes along every five years and “the way we do business” never seems to change, it will get harder and harder to obtain buy-in for the next idea, even if it really is transformational.

  4. To nitpick, in this post you introduce a working group – and you note that it has undergone a decline in performance.

    That seems a reason for the change. Don’t know if it is valid, because I don’t know how you’ve assessed the performance.

    But by your own statements it doesn’t look like change for the sake of change.

  5. As the author of the quote… “change for change’s sake is a recipe for disaster,” I think you may have misunderstood my reasoning… that is the bad part of quotes at times… they do not consider the entire context from which they were derived.

    Change, simply for the sake of creating change, is disastrous. There is no guide, direction, plan, or purpose for the change. People will rise up and resist this type of change. Change, however, with a guide, direction, plan or purpose, for the sake of argument, is productive, conducive, and advisable. It breaks up destructive routine and produces new-found drive and determination for those within the change process.

    I hope this clarifies my position and statement…

  6. I don’t think it matters what the reality for the motives for change are, stakeholder perception is reality.
    Those that impliment change should be aware of this. Even the most well considered and guided change will fail if these perceptions aren’t managed.
    The key to this is authenticity. If the drivers for change are transparent and true, you stand a fighting chance of success. Without that, it’s futile.

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