Common Sense. Not Common Practice. (Part I)

A lot of what I share from my research and experience is actually common sense. Think about it:

  • I suggest that we should ask our people for ideas when we’re trying to figure out “how” to change our organizations. Why? Well, because when people feel heard, they’ll do remarkable things. And, our people are actually closer to the action than we are. Our ideas for how to execute the change are likely to be naïve; theirs are likely to be much richer, more actionable, more realistic. Someone recently saw me talk about the need to ask our people, and they commented that “It’s amazing that asking our people for insight is so novel. It shouldn’t be, but somehow it is.” It’s common sense. Just not common practice.


  • I suggest that oral and written communications during a change are wonderful, but 90 percent of communications is action, only 10 percent is words. We have all kinds of sayings for it: “Actions speak louder than words.” “Your actions are so loud, I cannot hear what you’re saying.” Ben Franklin said: “Words show a man’s whit, actions his meaning.” But for some reason, when we’re leading a change, we somehow forget this. We call on our Communications team to do the hard work of getting everyone on board, but we don’t think to look for actions to show how dedicated personally we are to the change. Again, common sense. Not common practice.


  • We expect our people will dive into the change once we’ve announced it. We wonder why they don’t jump on the next big, exciting thing (agile development, machine learning, crypto, AI, you name it). But they don’t. And yet when we, ourselves, are told what to do by someone, we like it a lot less than when it’s our own idea. It would be common sense to make it our people’s idea (with integrity), but we don’t do it. It’s not common practice.

And when I talk about some of these common-sense ideas, I often get looks like “Duh” and questions like “When are you going to teach me something new?” Yet in reality we seem to forget all this common sense (again and again) when we’re leading change.

The big question is: Why? Why do we check our common sense at the door when we’re leading a change? And what do we need to do differently?

That’s what I’ll tackle in next month’s column.

In the meantime, look out for those times when you might be ignoring common sense, and let me know what you think. I look forward to being in touch.

Al Comeaux

Primed for Change Community

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