Pablum – The Silent Killer

“Pablum,” he said.

I’m fairly proud of my vocabulary, but I was embarrassed to admit I didn’t know what that word meant. “It means ‘mush’,” he said, “like there’s nothing there to chew on.”

I was at Guidant Corporation, and we were being acquired. He was a VP in charge of integrating the two companies’ sales forces, and he was describing the messages we were producing to educate our employees.

Story Time

Recently I helped a client’s executives craft key messages about a disruptive change they were implementing. It struck me that the change was complex, the messaging was complex, and that the organization’s employees were going to be lost and confused.

So I drew a picture on the white board and told a story…


We all have a mental model of what the future holds. This model is based on our experiences, our assumptions, and our expectations. Depending on our personality and circumstances, we may be more or less conscious of this model.

Change introduces uncertainty about the future. It disrupts our mental model, like a careless child bumping a chessboard.

Suboptimal Ralph

I heard it first from Ralph Herda. During a change initiative that involved some intense stakeholder resistance, seven re-engineering team members were developing brilliant solutions that no one else liked.

Ralph, who provided oversight for the project, listened to the concerns of the team, thought about it for a bit, stroked his chin, leaned forward in his chair, and declared,

“Owned solutions are better than optimal solutions.”