When facing a choice, get clarity with the change matrix

The change matrix is primarily a tool to explain why people seem to resist change, but it can be used to make a decision when the appeal of the proposed change is facing some doubts about losing more than gaining.

Doing the exercise of filling the matrix should help getting clarity about the plusses and minuses of the change, and base the decision on some rational weighing.

In order to understand the matrix and the associated metaphors, I recommend watching the video.

When facing a choice with significant impact on current and future situation

An envisioned or proposed major change in life can be scary. Who never faced the dilemma of daring a change and face the uncertainty or keep everything as is for the sake of some “safety”?

The safety here can be nothing more than an illusion, but the familiarity of the current situation gives some impression to remain in control. In the current situation, everything seems predictable and known while a change will modify many things, adding a lot of unknown and uncertainty.

Furthermore the popular saying states that every improvement is a change but every change isn’t an improvement, adding to the fear of giving up something good for worse.

Relying only on gut feeling may not be the best way to make the decision unless one trusts his or her intuitions. The change matrix can bring some clarity when the exercise is done honestly.

Pot of gold and mermaid

Write down all promoted benefits as well as those the intuition suggests. What makes the change desirable and that CANNOT be gotten or achieved in current situation?

Switch to the mermaid and ask yourself what would make you ignore the pot of gold, something of great value ONLY provided in current situation.

The capital letters stand for extreme wording, a technique useful for identifying false assumptions. If it sounds weird or not true, the assumption is probably false or overstated.

Crutches and alligators

Assess the risks of change figured by the crutches. What can possibly go wrong with the change that WILL end up with SIGNIFICANT damage?

On the other hand what CATASTROPHE WILL happen by keeping the status quo?

Looking at the matrix

It is time to look at all quadrants and check in which direction the matrix points. Hopefully a clear indication is shown, either favoring change or recommending to stay put.

The last time I applied the matrix to a personal important choice I was surprised how clear the best choice appeared.

It was consistent with my intuition but was more elaborate, thus added much clarity to the best choice. The result could have been opposite and could have put a rationalized end to a fantasy. The clarity and the list of pro and cons gives great confidence about the decision to make. I really recommend to give it a try.

Possible biases

When facing a desirable change, one may overestimate the size of the pot of gold as well as the threat of alligators while underestimating the risks (the crutches) and the sex-appeal of the mermaid.

In plain English this means overestimate the gain or benefits of the change as well as the potential danger of not changing, thus making the change desirable. This looks much like fulfilling a self prophecy.

In order to complete the demonstration or reinforce the desirability of the change, the risks associated with the change are minimized or ignored and the advantages of the status quo downplayed.

Conversely, when facing a less desirable change and even more in case of an undesirable change, the person may evaluate the quadrants in an opposite manner: overestimating the number of crutches and the sex-appeal of the mermaid while underestimating the value in the pot of gold as well as playing down the threat of alligators.

Again the translation in plain English: to justify the rejection of a proposed change the risks of the change are magnified and the advantages of the status quo highlighted while the benefits of the change are questioned and the threat of not changing minimized or even denied.

I  order to avoid this pitfall, it is meaningful to share all (emphasize “all”) the elements of the choice in the most neutral manner to a person of confidence or (someone selected as) a coach. A new external point of view may question the rationale and propose a new perspective.

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5 things to remember about 5S

I assume readers are aware about 5S. The 5S are a methodology when beginners discover them through a structured way of teaching. They hopefully turn into an approach for organizing the workplace, and eventually a philosophy for those embracing the 5S principles for guiding their personal behaviors.

Read more about Approach, philosophy or methodology

Here are 5 things to remember about 5S:

1 – 5S look easy but aren’t

5S look disappointingly simple. The traditional learning way takes the beginners through a 5-step implementation program, usually one step at a time.
This tutored and hands-on journey makes the 5S look really simple and that’s a good thing. Yet 5S’ difficulty is nothing technical nor about the principles (“all common sense”), but about getting people to think and behave differently. This is about change management.

2 – 5S are too important to be delegated to interns

If you agree with point number 1 and on the importance of 5S as a necessary foundation to build operational excellence, then you cannot delegate the 5S rollout to someone who is not fully part of the organization and not having the required authority and leadership. Considering 5S as a secondary chore and delegating it to an intern is one common management mistake about 5S.

3 – Forget about Return On Investment

5S are a basic Necessary Condition for providing an efficient and safe workplace, and from then on developing operational excellence. As such, 5S are not rolled out in search for ROI. The gains, hence ROI is pretty difficult to evaluate. How to valuate 20 square meters of warehouse freed from clutter or a better looking, clean and stainless workshop?
If the decision to go for 5S is a matter of ROI, this choice is as meaningful as deciding the ROI of brushing teeth or showering is worth it. By the way, 5S are considered “industrial hygiene”.

4 – You’ll be never done with 5S

Even an organization managed to have a full cycle of the 5S completed, it can’t claim it’s done. 5S are simply never-ending. First because it is so easy to slip back to old behaviors, to take it easy on discipline. Second because the conditions change over time and 5S rules and practices have to be adjusted. Newcomers may join and have to embrace 5S as well. They have to be trained, mentored and maybe they’ll bring in new ideas worth implementing.

5 – 5S is not about housekeeping

This is a common misconception about 5S: it’s not about housekeeping, constantly scrubbing and cleaning. 5S is about avoiding to clean and scrub, about getting smart and avoid spilling dirt and creating mess.Even cleaning and scrubbing might be necessary at the beginning, it is advised to find ways to avoid it quick because nobody likes those chores. So 5S is not about housekeeping, 5S are continuous improvement.

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Benchmarking is only trouble!

It happens periodically. When managers are faced with improvement challenge, they ask for benchmarks. Not because they’re eager to take it on competition but to check if by chance they’re not already better or at least good enough, thus escape the challenge.

And this is only the beginning with trouble about Benchmarking.


It is legitimate to measure one’s performance against a standard – and it makes sense to measure relatively to the best, not the average or the worst – and to define a strategy according to the gap.

The problem is once benchmark data are given, people generally get shocked by the amplitude of the gap and start to argue about the figures, content, calculation, conditions and a long list of other items in order to demonstrate the benchmark cannot be taken as a reference for them/ the organization.

All energy is wasted to reject the evidence instead of trying to fill the gap or even challenge to leap ahead of competition.

The second kind of common problem is that benchmark is often understood as a target. But being just as good as the best is limiting the ambition to being a follower, a me-too, a substitute. Is this really what the organization’s management wants?

Besides, all the efforts paid to catch up with the best can be ruined if the leader moves further ahead.

We can assume the leader has some reserves the challenger may not have anymore or never had first hand.

Benchmark is therefore only a reference, not a target. The organization’s target should go beyond the benchmark and the way to achieve it should (probably) be different than the leader’s.

Third problem is that finding relevant benchmarking data is sometimes difficult, impossible or out of reach.

Some people/organizations may grant access to some data but refuse to give any details, pretending they are proprietary.

Some people/organizations don’t hesitate to invent such data and generally do not share details which might uncover the trick.

The problem within this problem is that data may be real and accurate, but refusing to share details – what can be understandable for the sake of data protection – leads immediately to distrust:

  • are data trustworthy?
  • what methodology was used?
  • are data relevant, accurate?
  • and so on.

Fourth problem is that top management is generally pleased with the revealed potential. Closing the gap with the leader means more sales, more profit, more productivity, less waste, less costs, etc.

How-to is not top management’s concern, that’s why middle management is often puzzled with the objectives assigned after the “big” strategy consultants made their recommendations based on benchmarks. Squeeze out 25% more productivity or boost sales 20% is easier set (sic) than done.

Middle management tend to react as described in the beginning of this post, with shock and denial.

But here I think the problem is not about trustworthiness of data. Even so figures are just fantasy, the assigned objectives are to be taken for what they are: objectives.

The proper reaction of all the organization should therefore be to find a way to achieve them. It probably will require to think outside the box, be creative, search for breakthroughs.

Doing so will most probably help the organization to leap forward, maybe even beyond the goal.

Alas, the latter is seldom seen and it takes a lot of energy to explain this challenge to scared managers.

Therefore, from my experience, benchmarking is only trouble!

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