March 2017


From the President: 

An Etiology of Metathesiophobia


William “Bud” Wurtz, Ph.D.

2017 PNODN President

Change has been called the law of life, but it is a reality many people dread. So it is not surprising there is a raging epidemic of metathesiophobia – the fear of change – throughout the advanced countries of the world.

We are going through a wrenching economic transformation from work being organized around resource-based, large-scale industries, to an economy based on creating knowledge where disruption is the order of the day. Because of social and political choices that have been made, consciously or not, one consequence of this enormous change has been the creation of economic “winners” and “losers”. This in turn has fueled among the latter the populist backlash that is roiling our politics with ominous implications for the future.

Resistance to change is hardly a new phenomenon, of course. The challenge of organizational change, which requires many individuals to change their behavior, has been at the heart of OD since the beginning of the profession. Yet collective individual resistance to change still bedevils many practitioners and their interventions. To help address this, let me offer a short list of what causes people to fear change.

Let’s start with a fear of change that is hardly surprising, the fear of unknown. In a rapidly changing world, people crave certainty, however illusory certainty may actually be. Change initiatives tend to be announced in high-level general terms; the firm is going to become more “customer facing”, or “marketing oriented”, or “technology driven”, or whatever. The inevitable question for the individual is, how does this impact my job and my future? When there are no specific detailed answers immediately forthcoming, anxiety begins to take hold.

Fear of failure is another powerful source of resistance to change. Individuals may be concerned that they may not be able to master the skills needed to perform effectively in a transformed workplace. If you have been, say, a marketing manager for 15 years, a changeover to Big Data-based analytical tools may start a cycle of self-doubt that can escalate out of control, even when there is a promise of retraining.

The fear engendered by having to leave one’s comfort zone is closely related to the fear of failure. People are creatures of habit, and as research psychologist Ian Newby-Clark notes, “habits are extremely hard to change. They're hard to change because they're so ingrained, because they're so almost-automatic.” It is asking a lot of a person to give up the work they have become accustomed to over many years for something new.

Organization change often entails loss for many people, and fear of loss can be a potent source of change resistance. Sometimes change can mean long-time colleagues lose their jobs or are moved to new jobs in distant cities. Even if a person experiences temporary relief when she find she has avoided the axe, this feeling may be quickly replaced with distress when the new uncomfortable reality of not being to rely on people one has known and trusted sets in. There can even be feelings of guilt over why the person was spared when others were not.

One not-so-obvious fear is the fear of success. This fear can come from deep within a person, inducing anxiety over being unworthy of one’s talents and resulting rewards bestowed upon the individual by the organization. This can be coupled with another worry, the fear of upsetting others by passing them by on the career ladder.

The assumptions people make about change cause them to fear it. OD practitioners need to help individuals examine their assumptions and fears and come to best come to grips with the reality of change for their own preferred future.

We are honored to have former PNODN Board member Mo Rael present the “Immunity to Change” process at our February 27th meeting. (NOTE: This date is the fourth Monday evening of the month. We will be back on our regular third-Monday- of-the-month schedule in March.) The Immunity to Change framework is a different and powerful take from the one I have just offered on the individual assumptions that hinder positive responses to change.

That said, let me conclude by saying that people are not just being paranoid about how harmful change has been to many individuals, who have indeed been hurt when their work has disappeared with little prospect for new sources of work. The OD profession needs to take a larger and more active role in promoting a society-wide dialog on how to help everyone make it in the new economy. Until a new social compact is developed promoting mutual success, there is certain to be more insecurity. And as political scientists Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris point out (as quoted in Thomas Edsall’s recent New York Times column: “Insecurity encourages an authoritarian xenophobic reaction in which people close ranks behind strong leaders, with strong in-group solidarity, rejection of outsiders, and rigid conformity to group norms.” There is a lot at stake.

Dr. William “Bud” Wurtz

2017 PNODN President


Immunity to Change with Mo Raei on February 27th

Traditional change management and self-help tools focus on changing negative behaviors. The assumptions being that it is easy to change behavior. However, because these behaviors serve a protective mechanism, they are very likely to come back in one form or another. Additionally, new behaviors might spring up to restore the dynamic equilibrium.

To overcome the hidden dynamic, the Immunity Mapping process will assist you in identify your competing commitments, dig deeper and find the underlying assumptions behind these commitments. Only when you unearth your big assumptions, can you engage in changing behaviors. The Immunity to change process was developed over 15 years ago by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey at Harvard University. It was successfully applied with thousands of individuals. It is a powerful intervention for creating movement in change efforts and for the adult development required for transformational change leadership.


Review of January Meeting: "Clarity Compass"

by Jeremy Meeds, Program Director

During our January program, Brit Poulson, a seasoned corporate OD consultant, introduced us to his Clarity Compass which includes two basic dimensions, namely, Intentions to Actions, and Facts vs. Stories. Over the course of the evening we paired up and were able to apply the Facts vs. Stories dimension to real life problems that we were facing. We picked a situation that involved another person, that we could see a significant opportunity for improvement, and that had importance and meaning for us. As we did this, we were able to tease out the difference between our direct observations and our stories about them which were based on thoughts, feelings and beliefs. We got to see the value of holding our stories lightly and how powerful applying this dimension of the Clarity Compass is.

We were entertained by two real life examples from our members and were able to help each other see the real life situation differently. Brit was humorous, articulate, well spoken and brought in some delightful examples from his own personal life. I feel like we all went away with a powerful and effective personal tool to use in our daily lives and organizations.


Case Study

Savy Slips, Learning on the Run

By Philip S. Heller

Learnings from Practice 23: Changing Practices to Make Fairer Hiring Decisions

How to help supervisors change their employment practices to make fair and legal hiring decisions?

The Request. A Director of a State Department of Maintenance and Operations wanted to ensure that all his supervisors were creating a more inclusive workplace around the state based on fair and legal hiring decisions. He wanted them to understand their legal responsibilities as hiring authorities especially when it came to hiring men, women and people of diverse background.

Larger Context. The Department provides maintenance, operations and repair services for all state-owned facilities. This included asset management of all buildings, grounds and parking lots which required the services of engineers, architects, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, painters, gardeners, security personnel and custodians. The Department’s hiring process had been quite informal and based on, what was commonly referred to as, “the ol’ boys network.” Job candidates were solicited and hired for employment on the basis of who they knew at the Department. Consequently, the Department reflected friendship patterns of those already employed, mostly Caucasian men and did not reflect the diverse population of the state. It was important to the Director to change the current basis for hiring and ensure that ethical and legally defensible hiring decisions were being made. He expected everyone with hiring authority to use professional employment practices that met the highest hiring standards. Most of the hiring managers and supervisors had never been given any training in interviewing and employee selection.

Consulting Intervention. A significant component of the change process was to deliver hands-on training to anyone with hiring authority in the Department. Given the lack of knowledge and skills, we thought it best to provide some rationale for why the current employment decision-making process needed up-dating without blame or recrimination. If the folks with hiring authority could appreciate the potential problems with the current process, the necessary skill building would be much more desirable. We used the metaphor of test taking, and in particular, a vehicle driving test to mimic the employment hiring “test” process. Driving was something everyone could relate to. We asked them to assess the fairness of a driving test under different test conditions that mimicked unfair hiring practices (1). We used this exercise to demonstrate the need to make valid hiring decisions, e.g., to ensure that only the best job candidates (new drivers who could actually drive) would past the employment (driver’s) test and actually be hired (be allowed on the road). It made it quite easy for anyone to see the threats to fairness that certain employment hiring practices might have (2). For example, we asked if one driver examiner passed a new driver, but another examiner didn’t pass that same individual, would the test be an accurate measure of the person’s ability on the road? Similarly, if two interviewers couldn’t agree on which job candidate was best, would the hiring process be valid for selecting the best candidate? Hence the need for interviewers to agree on what constitutes a best candidate.

Last line: Using a commonly understood metaphor example is one way to change attitudes and practices towards fair hiring decisions without increasing resistance to change that might accompany a more direct approach.

(1) To access the driving test exercise we used, go to: and select: What’s Fair? Driving Test Exercise.

(2) To access our understanding of a fair interview process, go to: and select Fair Interviews.

Philip Heller is a senior associate of Learning Design Associates. For 36 years he has helped plan systems change and develop leaders in government, community agencies, and health care centers. Philip received his Ph.D. in Education focusing on learning and problem solving. As part of the originating group, he has been a PNODN member since 1982.

© 2017 Philip S. Heller, Savy Slips, Learning on the Run 23, Changing Practices to Make Fairer Hiring Decisions






Join us March 20th 

Trauma dynamics: individuals and organizations

with Mark Sideman

How does one provide services when trauma is a factor? Trauma dynamics can be very intensive, complex and differ significantly from what one might consider more conventional dynamics. Important context issues in addressing trauma in organizations can include: how has trauma engaged an organization.

  • Some avenues of engagement include:
  • external conditions out of control of the organization (e.g. natural disaster, political);
  • internal historical event (i.e. coming from an earlier period and been carried along as part of the organization);
  • engagement with clients;
  • introduced through actions of management; or carried through the personal experience/history of employees?

What if there is a combination of more than one of these impact routes? Trauma engagement has complex and intensive dynamics that can also have impact on the practitioner.

This session will address trauma from an individual impact level with the goal of increasing your understanding of what is trauma (e.g. discussion of the trauma continuum and the difference between traumatic and traumatized); some of the dynamics of how trauma impacts individuals and systems; differences that a trauma lens might have on traditional approaches/expectations in serving individuals and systems.

We will address some important dos and don’ts and some fundamentals of working with situations where trauma dynamics might have a role.




Our Administrator is: Ann M. Baus 


The Editor of the newsletter is David C. Wigglesworth 



From The Editor

This is your newsletter and we welcome and encourage your contributions. They could include personal news of a professional achievement, a brief article of interest, a short book review, a case study, a cartoon, a joke that is OD relevant and/or anything else that might be of interest to your colleagues who are our readers. I thank you in advance.






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