Verax International Ltd



Beware the Sprinklings of Magic Dust


Some time ago the Sunday Times published an article by Adrian Furnham, Professor of Psychology at University College London, discussing his experience of change succeeding and failing, with more emphasis on the latter.


He calls for greater objective analysis of change needs which will identify real needs and make monitoring and measurement of success easier.


In our last newsletter, we shared with you 5 ways to Make Change Successful.


The most important of the 5 ways is clarity i.e. to be absolutely clear about: -


  • What in business terms you want to achieve as a result of the change programme
  • The objective criteria you will use to confirm success
  • Precisely what needs to change for you to achieve the results you need


In order to do this you need good quality, objective data e.g. the Verax OTI, in order to determine priorities, ensure that the right changes are commissioned and that there is a robust methodology for monitoring progress.


Furnham confirms that too many change programmes are based on the subjective wishes and feelings of senior managers. We have seen elsewhere how unsuccessful they are in general about identifying cause/effect factors

e.g. in designing Balanced Score Cards (ask for our White Paper – Organisational Diagnostics and BSC).


He also, like us has too often seen “old wine in new bottles” e.g. charm became social skills and then became emotional intelligence: job satisfaction became job commitment and involvement and now job engagement; Personnel became Human Resources and now Human Capital.


So the subjective wishes of senior managers get transformed through “magic dust”, created by the wordsmithing of consultants, HR etc, which if sprinkled appropriately should make all the CEO’s dreams come true – staff (the biggest cost) transforming into “my greatest asset”, of agile, emotionally intelligent, empowered, engaged, mindful employees! We know it is difficult to motivate and satisfy them, so “magic dust” is so appealing and attractive – even if expensive but ineffective.

Rob Briner of Bath School of Management offers a 3 stage solution.



Stage 1 – “Theory”


  • Do you have good operational definitions of terms used? i.e. what it looks like in practical terms.
  • Is there a clear, systematic description of the mechanism by which things work i.e. cause and effect (not just relationships) e.g. what causes people to be more productive and how does this affect the bottom line.
  • What is really new, different – how will I know it works?


Stage 2 – “Measurement”


  • Does the approach contain valid measures – validity and reliability, norms, predictive validity etc? – like all Verax diagnostics –
  • Use a combination of data types – when several point in the same direction you are getting somewhere.



Stage 3 – “Data Evidence”


  • Back up claims with good disinterested evidence
  • Is the research done by people qualified to do it and have nothing to gain by the results showing one thing or another.


When you get the answers to these questions, then there is a good chance that you get somewhere toward achieving the  most important criterion of successful organisational change - real clarity about what needs to be changed in order for you to achieve what you need to achieve.




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