Beware of Fool’s Green

For centuries, iron pyrite fooled prospectors into thinking they had found gold. It was—as we would say today—a “disappointing learning opportunity.”

I’ve been fooled, too, but it wasn’t by fool’s gold. It was by fool’s green. I hope you’ll learn from my disappointment—and the disappointment of so many others I’ve studied.


When we’re leading a change effort inside our organizations, it can be very tempting to outsource the change to others. We announce the change, make others accountable, and focus on new strategic pursuits. Those accountable give us updates on progress.

The green check marks on their initiative lists tell us they DID form a new committee, they DID buy the new software, training on the new technology IS underway.

But, as I’ve learned the hard way, this can be fool’s green. Despite the activity, people are unenthusiastic. Perhaps they had no input into the change; it isn’t “their” idea. And given they understand better than us how things really work, our ideas for the change may be naïve. Good people are leaving; underperformers are staying put, making excuses.

We’re astonished when things stop going well. And by now we’re way behind on the change curve. The “strategic pursuits” we turned to when we outsourced the change…they mean nothing because our organization didn’t execute on our last ideas.


How do we avoid this very common thing: fool’s green? Some ideas:

  • Listen first. Listening builds enthusiasm when our people feel heard (and are heard), and we gain insight because our people’s ideas are usually closer to the mark.
  • Stay engaged: We need others to run the day-to-day change work, but by being visibly engaged ourselves, we build enthusiasm and stay better informed.
  • Model the change. Take the training class with your people. Heck, TEACH the training class. Better to DO “this is important” than to just say it.

Bottom line, if we want to see green (as in dollars), we can’t be fooled by green.

Let me know what you think. I look forward to being in touch.

Al Comeaux

Primed for Change Community

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