The nine warning signs that your change initiative is creating organisational Alzheimers

Updated: May 29

Like the human disease, organisational Alzheimers can cripple an organisation's knowledge capability. What are your change leaders and managers doing to monitor the risk of adverse outcomes?


This blog is not intended to trivialise the crippling human condition that is Alzheimers. However, there is the potential learn from Alzheimer indicators of memory loss in the context of change and organisational systems. For more information on Alzheimers and how you can help support those who suffer with the disease, please visit the Alzheimer’s Society.



Change Management initiatives that fail to track project risks, such as the impact of change on organisational knowledge flows, increase the likelihood of adverse outcomes from their actions.


Ultimately, change management initiatives need to influence behavioural change. Change creates uncertainty and fuels fear, which can lead to a freeze, fight or flight response in the communities most impacted by the proposed change.


One of the first things to suffer from that fear response is your organisational knowledge flow. A fast knowledge flow is critical to efficient and effective decision-making and problem-solving.


Knowledge, being a human condition, brings us back to people and self-determination, where change leaders need to watch for the warning signs that can amplify adverse outcomes from their change initiatives.


The nine warning signs that your change initiative is creating organisational Alzheimers Knowledge Loss 1 | Memory loss disrupts daily life

Knowledge held by external contractors or people who have left the company (e.g. retirement or career progression) is no longer available. This is causing a negative impact upon work routines and impacting indicators such as safety, time, innovation, quality, cost, and experience (internal/external customer experience) – (STIQCE).

Knowledge Loss 2 | Challenges in planning or solving problems

Customer (internal/external) satisfaction is decreasing. Your ability to plan is being hit, and your problem-solving capability is limiting the solutions you can offer to your customers.

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Knowledge Loss 3 | There is difficulty in completing what once was routine

Knowledge held by external contractors or people who have left the company (e.g. retirement or career progression) is no longer available. This is causing a negative impact on work routines and impacting indicators such as safety, time, innovation, quality, cost, and experience (internal/external customer experience) – (STIQCE).

Knowledge Loss 4 | Confusion with time or place

Stories are becoming myths. When problems arise people talk about the mythical ‘Merlin’; a solution provider so knowledgeable s/he kept the organisation going, if only they were here now!

Knowledge Loss 5 | Trouble understanding messages

Lessons learned are lying dormant. The messages they contain are not clear and the people who could make sense of them are no longer around. Organisational memory and consciousness (awareness) is in decay or is lost – this is not about unlearning the past, this is about critical knowledge being no longer understood or available.

Knowledge Loss 6 | Losing the ability to retrace your steps

Complicated problems have become intractable. Domain expertise is no longer as widely spread as it once was and people now struggle with key decision points.

Knowledge Loss 7 | Decreased or poor judgement

The natives are becoming restless. Whispers of poor decisions circulate the water-cooler. People remember the “good old days”, the times when things were better around here.

Knowledge Loss 8 | Withdrawal from social activities

There is a subtle shift in culture occurring. People are not collaborating as much as they used to. Knowledge flows are seizing up and personal networks are shrinking. Critical knowledge is slipping into narrower and deeper silos, and leaders don’t recognise that it is happening.

Knowledge Loss 9 | Changes in mood and personality

An insular approach sees people working to task. Opportunities to anticipate, innovate and speed up processes are ignored unless they appear in KPIs/targets. There is a negative knowledge culture, where opportunity loss is limiting the future of the organisation and adding to the cost of doing business in the present.

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If you would like to know more about our approaches to transforming Change Management, contact david@k3cubed.com


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