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“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” : The Life of Reason (1905-1906) George Santayana (16 December 1863 in Madrid, Spain – 26 September 1952 in Rome, Italy) was a philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist. Wikipedia, accessed 2 August, 2016

The more things change, the more they stay the same

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose“[1]—”the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”, usually translated as, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”  Les Guêpes, January 1849 .

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (24 November 1808 – 29 September 1890) was a critic and author.


So, for more than a hundred years, Karr and Santayana have been advising us to apply Lessons Learned.

For almost 30 years the method currently known as PRINCE2 includes the capture and application of Lessons Learned from current projects to better deliver future projects. And now to my point: why do the majority of organisations not use change history to shape the coming change?

Could it be there’s politics in play or the change team is already ‘late’ in starting the next programme or maybe there’s some stuff that is better not to share? These and many more reasons can inhibit an organisation’s ability to learn from the past to better shape its future.

Specifically, there tends to be more of a chance for ‘Process Lessons Learned’ than ‘People Lessons Learned’. Could the reason for this be it’s easier to focus on process as this is ‘objective’ and a people focus could get ’emotional’…and we don’t want to bring emotional intelligence into the objective world of process, do we?

Top Tips: Using Change History to Shape the Coming Change

  • Have a realistic assessment of organisational culture, does this encourage and support sensible, professional creation & application of Lessons Learned?
  • Consider who the organisation makes its “heroes”. Those who hide the information that if known would make a positive difference to the coming change programmes or those who are courageous to be sensible transparent about what really went on?
  • Use some relevant tools to get to the facts and create positive actions for moving forward such as Appreciative Enquiry, Force Field Analysis and Learning Preferences.
  • Reality-check the organisation’s history regarding implementing successful change e.g business case deliverables; those affected by the change at a personal level; individual response to change; the reason for starting the change programme; organisational fitness for change i.e. what’s the level of “burn out” versus “energy” for the proposed change.
  • Assess where those affected by the coming change are on the Kubler-Ross Model and further work on this by Adams, Hayes and Hopson i.e. in denial or anger or acceptance or integration (I’ve incorporated steps from both models here)

Written by: Bob Black, Learning Tree International