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How does change happen in Palo Alto?

Original post made by Change Agent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007


Seems to me that Palo Alto has some change management issues.

From Change Management 101:

Web Link

In thinking about what is meant by “change management,” at least four basic definitions come to mind:

1. The task of managing change.
2. An area of professional practice.
3. A body of knowledge.
4. A control mechanism.

One meaning of “managing change” refers to the making of changes in a planned and managed or systematic fashion. The aim is to more effectively implement new methods and systems in an ongoing organization. The changes to be managed lie within and are controlled by the organization.


The second meaning of managing change, namely, the response to changes over which the organization exercises little or no control (e.g., legislation, social and political upheaval, the actions of competitors, shifting economic tides and currents, and so on). Researchers and practitioners alike typically distinguish between a knee-jerk or reactive response and an anticipative or proactive response.


Stemming from the view of change management as an area of professional practice there arises yet a third definition of change management: the content or subject matter of change management. This consists chiefly of the models, methods and techniques, tools, skills and other forms of knowledge that go into making up any practice.

The content or subject matter of change management is drawn from psychology, sociology, business administration, economics, industrial engineering, systems engineering and the study of human and organizational behavior.


For many years now, Information Systems groups have tried to rein in and otherwise ride herd on changes to systems and the applications that run on them. For the most part, this is referred to as “version control” and most people in the workplace are familiar with it. In recent years, systems people have begun to refer to this control mechanism as “change management” and "configuration management." Moreover, similar control mechanisms exist in other areas. Chemical processing plants, for example, are required by OSHA to satisfy some exacting requirements in the course of making changes. These fall under the heading of Management of Change or MOC.


To recapitulate, there are at least four basic definitions of change management:

1. The task of managing change (from a reactive or a proactive posture)

2. An area of professional practice (with considerable variation in competency and skill levels among practitioners)

3. A body of knowledge (consisting of models, methods, techniques, and other tools)

4. A control mechanism (consisting of requirements, standards, processes and procedures).


So, assuming that change happens, and there is no way to stop it, the question begs, "How does Palo Alto manage change?"

From the Merc article about Grace Mah:

Web Link

"It doesn't speak well for the Palo Alto community," said Henry Der, former state deputy superintendent of schools. "If there's an underlying tone of resentment against the changing face of Palo Alto, these individuals who fear change need to get on with it and deal with reality."

Comments (5)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2007 at 9:18 am

Change most definitely is happening in Palo Alto. I see the problem more as the fact that whatever the change, 50% of the residents will not like it and 50% will not think it has gone far enough or has changed in the "wrong" direction. This is not exclusive to Palo Alto. Worldwide, changes happen, and there is always dissension about it. What makes Palo Alto different, is (a) there are always a vocal group who make so much noise that they can actually stop progress e.g. Alma Plaza and (b) there is always very good arguments as to why a change is good or bad e.g. MI.

Is this good or bad for Palo Alto? Once again, some will argue yes and some no. Face up to it, it is what makes Palo Alto what it is. One could argue that you can't change PA from the PA way and that just may be the only change around here that you can't make.

There are some changes we would all like to make and what I would like to make different is probably very different from the next guy. So, Palo Alto, will continue to be just what it is, if you like it, great and if you don't, wait a bit and see what happens next.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2007 at 12:32 pm

Ms. Noguchi found someone to use the old, tried and true method in for "diss"ing people she disagrees with, and his name is Der.

He characterized anyone who disagreed with HIM as being "individuals" (which sounds so much smaller than a group), who had a "tone of resentment", ( demonstrating to anyone who read and listened to everything that he cherry picked who he chose to represent) "against the changing face of Palo Alto", (implying that they were all issues concerning what the "face" of Palo Alto looks like, versus what the "policies" of Palo Alto look like, which is a subtle form of name calling), asserted that these individuals "fear change" ( which means there are no other valid reasons to oppose something "new") and finished with the great assertion about "reality" ( because obviously those who oppose turning us into a baby San Francisco school district are living in another world, and those who like it are living in reality).

He revealed a lot about himself in this finely crafted statement, and I don't like who I saw. Respectfully disagreeing is fine, but not this way. I guess he is a politician through and through.

Like this comment
Posted by another parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2007 at 4:30 pm

OK Resident, whichever one you are. It would be great for you to respond based on your differing view from Der's instead of just dissing him. That is:

1. You imply that individuals disagree with him. Well, what if it's a large group? Does majority rule always "win"? What about the rights of minority votes? And I don't mean ethnic minorities.

2. I believe it's fair to say that some people who disagree (perhaps individuals) are resentful. Do you see the rose-colored happy smiles everywhere? Change can draw strongly differing emotions. It's how to channel that emotion constructively instead of denying it's there.

3. Sorry, I don't understand your comment about name calling. I also don't understand your difference between the "changing face of Palo Alto" and the "changing policies of Palo Alto". Do you mean that one exists and the other doesn't, or one is right and the other wrong? Please explain.

4. OK, do you like "dislike change" better than "fear change"?

5. I don't understand your reality/San Francisco school district comment. Are you saying that Palo Alto school district could *never* change into San Francisco school district? Are you saying that Palo Alto school district could *never* change? Do you see any way that Palo Alto school district *might* shift towards being more like San Francisco school district? Have you closed your minds to the possibilities?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2007 at 5:17 pm

Just pointing out a masterful way of biasing first time readers who have no clue about the "rest of the story". Those of us who know the full history don't care what anyone says, we know the full story. I care about the REST of the folks who read this for the first time and draw assumptions.

Let me "bias" it the other way to make my point.

" It doesn't speak well for the Palo Alto community if there is an underlying tone of resentment against the integrated face of Palo Alto. These individuals who fear integration need to get on with it and deal with reality"

This bias is as awful as the original. I would resent someone who spun the story this way as much as I did the original quote, even though there is a little tiny bit of truth in it for a few folks, as much as there is a little tiny bit of truth in the original statement. It would be unfair, and anyone reading this in big quotes for the first time would draw as absurd and inaccurate conclusions about Palo Alto as from the original quote.

That is my point.

Like this comment
Posted by another parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2007 at 5:41 pm

OK, so is this unbiased:

"It doesn't speak well for any community if there is an underlying tone of resentment against the changes that face that community. The individuals who dislike change need to get on with it and deal with the reality of change happening."

What do you mean by substituting "integrated" and "integration" into the quote?

From Wikipedia:

Integration is a process of combining or accumulating

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