How Organizational Change Management Turns Buzzwords Into Meaningful Ideas

By Jonathan Monson | May 9, 2023

Organizational Change Management is a set of processes, tools, and techniques that can help you turn talk into action. It shifts good intentions into outcomes and painful change into progress.

When faced with a change in your organization, ask yourself:

How do you tell the difference between buzzwords and meaningful ideas?

Unfortunately, there is no punchline after this question. Strategy is often talked about but falls short on execution. This issue should be top of mind for you and your team members.

As an organizational change manager, I focus on a lot of ideas that are meaningful but sound like buzzwords. These include, but are not limited to "vision", "strategy", and "success criteria". Even the term "organizational change management" itself sounds like a buzzword.

To many people, these are nice ideas but rarely had impactful outcomes - almost the definition of a buzzword.

Even people who value topics like vision, strategy, and success criteria rarely spend the time thinking about, breaking down, and acting on them.

When prompted, many teams write off what they otherwise say are essential elements of success. We have to ask ourselves why that is and how we can move past it.

Why Success Becomes a Buzzword

I remember discussing a client’s business goals for a software project. I kicked off the call with the difference between implementation and adoption (let’s say implementation is turning on a working system and adoption is people’s behavior in the system).

I asked the room of leaders, “What’s the vision for this project? Why are we doing it?” A massively open-ended question, sure, but most people get my point.

After a brief pause, the senior-most leader in the room said, “These all sound like buzzwords. Why does it matter?”

I took a beat to respond, wondering what I’d said—or hadn’t said—to that point, and either way surprised that the client would make a significant investment in a project and not be able to talk about their vision, goals, or understanding of what was coming.

“You need to know where you’re going and if you got there.” Trying to make it more obvious, I gave some sort of simplistic answer. The reality, however, is complex.

Vision and goals are essential elements of strategy formulation and execution, which is core to how businesses run. But defining success at that strategic level seems too complex to get to actionable decisions quickly and those decisions feel hard to act on.

So, leaders don’t do it. Or if they do, they oftentimes don’t do anything with the output of those strategic sessions.

And when a strategy isn’t acted on, it’s useless.

Perhaps it is exactly this complexity that makes all these elements of success feel like buzzwords—there’s too much intangible content to get the gist. Let’s break it down.

How Organizational Change Management Can Help You Break the Buzz

People regularly throw around “visionary” as an accolade, but few people or ideas really earn it. People know what it means but often don’t see it translate into action, only adding to the buzz.

A term is sometimes widely used precisely because it is a meaningful idea, and in that use loses impact.

The vision for a project—and related ideas like purpose, mission, and core values set by the organization—can help motivate employees by projecting their story into the future. Even more practical than this, though, it can direct the decisions made during the initiative by establishing the destination to help set the course.

The vision guides decisions. Decisions direct project output. Output impacts employee behavior. Employee behavior generates business outcomes. Business outcomes achieve the vision.

Organizational Change Management Change Vision

This is of course all dependent on defining the vision and acting on it.

Leaders in many organizations jump into “initiatives” to show they’re leading but wind up too busy to do much beyond signing a check and delegating tasks. A strategy focused on the plan is essential. It’s necessary to know the scope, timeline, and budget, and to track status. But it isn’t all there is.

Strategy as perspective–the vision, mission, and purpose we’ve been thinking about—form the throughline from the top of the organization to the initiative and into the behaviors of individual employees.

This ties the initiative to the company culture, pairing the outcomes with how employees identify with the organization and their work. It tells the story, directs how core values play out, and contextualizes the coming changes.

So, not just a buzzword, one of the core questions to ask before undertaking any project is, “What is the vision?” Aligning, defining, and sharing that vision drives action, and breaks the buzz.

Change Management at Stoneridge Can Help

If you would like help “breaking the buzz” and translating your strategy into action, Stoneridge can lend a hand. We offer three change management support options:

  • On-demand: We support a specific need and then let your team do the rest of the change management work.
  • Planning and advisory: We offer guidance and support problem-solving.
  • Leadership and implementation: We drive change management for the project and take on a large part of the implementation work.

When success depends on people thinking and behaving differently, you need to guide them on their change journey. We can help you predict, prevent, and mitigate people-side risk.

Learn more about our change management services.


Have anything else you want to discuss regarding Organizational Change Management? Please reach out to us! Our team of experts is ready to assist you.

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