What’s in a Name? …or My Beef with Changing the Name of an Organization

I’ve worked in a number of jobs with different companies, some larger, some smaller, some mostly efficient, some nearly dead in the water…the organizations, not just individuals working there.  Over time, I’ve seen or been through a number of re-organizations and/or name changes.
Re-organizations, if done correctly, and for the right reasons, can positively affect the organization’s productivity, efficiency, and morale.  It can also save an organization money by streamlining processes, removing unnecessary amounts of middle management, and eliminating excess manpower.  No, I’m not a heartless scrooge, but from a business standpoint, there are almost always employees who aren’t performing up to standards or who just simply don’t really have a legitimate function in the business.  In a re-organization, many such employees may be identified and many of them may be re-purposed and shine in their new function.  Every re-organization doesn’t have to include a dramatic cut in the workforce.
So, what’s the deal with renaming an organization?
I understand why a business might want to change their name.  A company that had one of their jets nosedive into a swamp, for instance, might want to rename itself when it is ready to do business again to try to distance itself from negative images associated with the old name.  Makes perfect sense.  The new owner of a company that has had falling sales or service may choose to change the name to reflect new ownership/management to re-energize interest in the business.
Within an organization, though, not much comes from changing an organization’s name.  A rose by any other name, may smell as sweet, but an inefficient, ineffective organization by any other name is still poop.
One reason an organization might change its name is to sound more modern, more hip, more current…sexier.  Same function, same goals, same people working there.  “We haven’t accomplished anything in the last few years, but now we’ll do nothing with more swagger.”
Another reason ineffective organizations change their name is to provide the illusion of changing their function.  After failing in their stated goal for a few months to a few years, they change their name to match their newly rewritten core functions.  Basically, they are still supposed to do the same thing, but they give the appearance of having a new focus by busting out the business thesaurus and “re-inventing” themselves.
Unless an organization, while not “re-organizing”, changes its leadership or a significant portion of its personnel, simply changing the name and rewriting the goals won’t turn it into an efficient, productive part of the overall business…and let’s not even go into the costs in time, manpower, and materials to change an organization’s name.

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