Book Review-Influence Without Authority

“Nobody has ever had enough authority – they never have and they never will.” It’s the first highlight in Influence Without Authority, and it is the defining statement for why we need to learn how to influence others without authority. Coercive influence is corrosive to relationships. It must be used sparingly when it is available, and it’s often not available. The fundamental message on how to influence through authority is through the law of reciprocity.

The Law of Reciprocity

In some circles, it’s known as tit-for-tat. (See The Evolution of Cooperation for more on tit-for-tat.) Fundamentally, it’s an awareness that when you do something good for someone else, they often feel a psychic debt to repay your kindness, generosity, trust, or material gifts. (For more on how trust is reciprocal, see Trust => Vulnerability => Intimacy, Revisited.) The power of reciprocity is so great that it’s worked its way into campaign and public service laws as well as the guidelines for many organizations. In its Latin form, quid pro quo is an ethical challenge and something that politicians and business leaders want to steer clear of.

In its smallest forms, the law of reciprocity may hardly be noticeable. You’re more inclined to hold a door for someone if you’ve had a door held open for you. Whether you hold the door for the person who held it for you or not, a single random act of kindness can set off a natural chain reaction of kindness that sends ripples in all directions for a long time.

The Model in Six Steps

The model for influencing with authority is six simple steps:

  1. Assume all are potential allies – Fundamental attribution error will drive us towards thinking the worst of other people, but we must fight the tendency. (See Thinking, Fast and Slow and How We Know What Isn’t So for more on fundamental attribution error.)
  2. Clarify Your Goals and Priorities – Get absolutely clear on what you want. We often confuse the means that we’re striving for with the ends that we really want. (See Who Am I? for more.)
  3. Diagnose the World of the Other Person – This is one part getting into the other person’s head – mind-reading – and one part finding their perspective. See Mindreading for more on getting inside the other person’s head. See Incognito and The Ethnographic Interview to understand perspectives and for tools for learning about the other person’s world, respectively.
  4. Identify Relevant Currencies: Theirs and Yours – “Currencies” here means motivators, things you can give them that they desire and vice-versa. Here, the work of Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind and Steven Reiss in Who Am I? have illustrative of models for evaluating the other person.
  5. Dealing with Relationships – Here, the key is to relate to the other person. That takes a degree of emotional intelligence. (See Emotional Intelligence for more.) It also requires skills to carefully navigate difficult conversations. (See Crucial Conversations for more.)
  6. Influence through Give and Take – Here, the key is to give the other party what they want – and ask for the things that you want.

Being Heard

One of the most frequent causes of conflict and the reason that people resist influence is that they don’t believe they’ve been heard. They confront you with some concern that you quickly dismiss, and they feel as if you’ve not given it proper attention. It can be that it’s not applicable, but the summary dismissal makes the other person feel unheard, and that can create problems.

Helping other people be heard and understood – without necessarily agreeing – is a difficult art. It’s one that Miller and Rollnick discuss at length in Motivational Interviewing. They work with addicted individuals and convince them that their addiction is bad. Despite this, they must first develop a therapeutic alliance – a relationship through which they can say difficult things. (See The Heart and Soul of Change for more on therapeutic alliance.)

Our ability to communicate and read others’ minds may be the difference between us and other animals, but it also comes with an expectation. We’ve developed an expectation and need to be heard and understood. It’s something that we call need. (See The Righteous Mind and Mindreading for our ability to read others’ minds – and the evolutionary impacts.)

Hearing Objections

It’s too easy to dismiss objections and, when that doesn’t work, allow fundamental attribution error to kick in and think the worst of them instead of focusing on how their perspective or values are different. (See Thinking, Fast and Slow for more on fundamental attribution error.) It’s a starting point to acknowledge and learn more about the other person’s objectives. It’s advanced work to recognize that others aren’t bad people even if you struggle to understand their perspective.

With curiosity, you can begin to see objections and irritants as clues to the perspectives and values of the other person and thereby create a pathway to asking more questions and learning more.

Reality

Too often in our attempts to influence others, they bring their own version of reality that is difficult for us to hear. They see aspects of reality that we’d prefer to ignore. However, denying reality doesn’t make it less so. In fact, to deny reality makes it more dangerous for us, since we’re unable to respond wholly to the world around us.

Perhaps the best way to take a step towards the reality that we need to learn more about and get accomplished what you want through others is to read Influence Without Authority.

Book Review-Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution

Evolution, it seems, doesn’t follow one slow, methodical path towards progress. It stalls. It leaps. What we see as a smoothness is an illusion caused by the distance of time. Even evolution reaches points where slow and steady won’t win the race. Instead, it’s time for something radical to happen. That’s what reengineering a corporation is. It’s a radical change. Reengineering the Corporation: Manifesto for Business Revolution is a guide to this radical process that organizations must go through at some point – or several points during their lifecycle.

Defining Reengineering

Because the term “reengineering” has been so broadly used, it’s been used inappropriately. In some circles, it’s equated with layoff and reasons why people lose their livelihood. However, reengineering doesn’t mean doing things with fewer people – it can mean doing more with the people you have. Similarly, it doesn’t mean the kind of slow, incremental improvements that continuous quality improvement (CQI) cycles mean. (See Plan, Do, Study, Act as an example of a CQI cycle.)

Reengineering is fundamentally about rebuilding the organization’s processes. It’s about testing the foundational assumptions on which the organization is built. And that starts with testing the foundations of the industrial revolution.

The Industrial Revolution

To be sure, the Industrial Revolution granted a great deal to humankind’s material wealth. (See Capital for more.) The combining of steam power, standardized parts, and automation made it possible to make many more of the things that people needed. When Henry Ford started with his corner of the industrial revolution, he added new components like the moving assembly line and, perhaps more importantly, the breakdown of tasks such that people could be trained to do them quickly.

Ford’s growth meant pulling in more people, and the more people he pulled into his organization, the further outside his circles he had to go. The population of the United States had not yet migrated to large cities, and as a result many of the people he was hiring were sons of farmers or hired hands. They had little or no manufacturing background and often not much schooling.

The solution was to divide each task so small that you could teach a man to do the job quickly. If he didn’t work, he could be replaced just as quickly, like defective parts in a machine. The problem is that this lost the wholistic view of the process and, importantly, how one person’s behavior impacted another person and the customer.

Systems and Process

Most people thought in their small world. Their department was the scope of their involvement in the organization, and as they seemed to be doing their thing, all was well. This, however, ignored the downstream consequences they couldn’t see. They weren’t thinking about systems of interaction, and the system suffered. (See Thinking in Systems for more about systems.)

The radical view that drives reengineering is undoing the damage that was done with the Industrial Revolution and restoring accountability to a team for the total output rather than just their part. By becoming focused on how the customer experiences the organization rather than their responsibilities, they can sometimes radically improve the performance of the organization.

This isn’t an easy task, as every department manager or director wants to protect their fiefdom. It’s hard to find people who have enough authority to really pull of the kinds of radical changes that can mean huge savings.

Cellular Manufacturing

I grew up in manufacturing. My mother would take us to the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) meetings. They would have them at Holiday Inns, and we’d go swimming while they’d learn all about the latest innovations. Well, they were the latest innovations that we Americans would accept as many of them were started by Demming – an American – who had to go to Japan to find a willing audience.

One of the innovations was to organize manufacturing into cells. The cell would have a person or a team running a set of machines that completed an entire part – or at least a major aspect of the part. This didn’t require much more training, and the results were generally higher quality and better performance. (See Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management for more on manufacturing ideas.)

This approach flew in the face of traditional manufacturing thinking about breaking jobs down into small parts, but it worked. It worked because it reduced the friction between steps both in terms of distance and in terms of communications issues.

This is at the heart of reengineering. It’s testing your assumptions about the best way to do things and sometimes trying things that seem to fly in the face of conventional wisdom.

Management Layers

It was the 1980s and 1990s when it became popular to flatten organizations and remove middle management. Organizations had quietly amassed people who were becoming human bridges to make the process work, and the work of coordinating the work was becoming more challenging than the work itself. The diseconomies of the Industrial Revolution didn’t show up directly on the manufacturing line. Everyone kept optimizing for each step. Instead, the diseconomies showed up when one department needed to interact with another department, the problems had to be smoothed out, and the critical information had to be communicated.

It’s because reengineering tends to reintegrate processes and remove layers of management that it’s often seen as a ploy to justify a layoff. However, done effectively, it’s quite possible that everyone in the old management structure may be deployed – to productive activities.

Knowledge Management

Invariably, when you integrate multiple departments and positions inside a process into a smaller group of people, you’ll see speed increase – and you’ll increase the amount of knowledge necessary to do the work well. The fact that it was perceived as difficult to train people led to breaking jobs down into component pieces in the first place. If you’re going to integrate a process, you need to be able to educate people better – and support them better.

The work of Malcolm Knowles and his colleagues on The Adult Learner only goes so far. The research into Efficiency in Learning isn’t enough. Often, particularly in what Richard Florida in The Rise of the Creative Class calls “creative class” jobs, it’s necessary to find ways to decouple the necessity of knowledge from the individual contributors. Instead of breaking the task down, however, reengineering triages the complexity of the tasks. Some things fit the models so well they can be automatically addressed. Other things fit the models well enough that a generalist can take care of it. (See Range for more on why being a generalist is a good thing.) Only the truly difficult cases require the specialist and their unique knowledge. Here, experts become resources to the people who are processing the volume of the task.

Better yet, where possible, the tacit knowledge that resides in the experts’ heads is made explicit. This can be in the form of guidelines, flowcharts, or other explicit documentation about what to do and when. (See Job Aids and Performance Support for more on aids to performance that aren’t people or learning.) This is an important aspect of managing knowledge effectively, as, too often, the corporate expertise walks out the door when the experts do. (See Lost Knowledge for more on tacit knowledge and the need to convert knowledge to explicit knowledge.)

Even when explicit knowledge is available in some repository, that doesn’t eliminate the need for experts. Only so much of what we know can be converted to explicit knowledge, and that’s why it’s important for reengineering success to leverage knowledge management strategies that take advantage of both content and connections to experts. (See The New Edge in Knowledge for more on content vs. connect.) The truth of the matter is that some expertise is just expertise and transferring that to others is difficult. (See Sources of Power for Gary Klein’s research on recognition-primed decisions and why they can’t be easily taught.)

Loose Controls

One of the other aspects of reengineering is to reverse the process of creating controls for processes. What typically happens in an organization is that someone abuses a policy, so the policy is tightened. Sometimes, it’s tightened with additional checkpoints and oversight. The controls that are added to prevent abuse do, however, come with a cost.

The tight reigns of traditional approaches are replaced with looser controls that tolerate a larger degree of abuse but have controls to prevent it from getting out of hand. This makes financial sense, because the costs for controlling things such that they can’t be abused is higher than the cost of accepting some abuse. This greater flexibility implies trust with limits. (See Trust: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order for more on the impact of trust to economies.)

Empowerment

Much has been written in the past few decades about the importance of empowering workers. It’s about getting their minds involved as well as their bodies, they’ll say. It’s about allowing people to make decisions without “running them up the ladder.” Empowerment addresses both agility and capacity. Because authority is diffused, it’s possible to get answers quicker and respond to problems immediately. Because decisions are diffused, you get generally better, more nuanced decisions.

Despite these advantages and the relative amount of writing that has been done towards the goal of employee empowerment, we’ve not moved the needle much in terms of the perspective of employees in general. They still feel just as disenfranchised as before – but now they’re frustrated that more is expected out of them.

Part of the reluctance to behave like empowered individuals is due to a perceived lack of safety in the organization. (See The Fearless Organization for more on psychological safety in an organization.) Part of it is undoubtedly because few people are taught how to harness their courage. (See Find Your Courage for more.) However, a non-trivial degree of resistance is likely because few organizations give their employees the tools that they need to feel as if they’re empowered. It’s hard to feel like you can make important decisions if you can’t get the tools you need to be effective in your job.

Communications Are Never Good Enough

It’s an easy win. The client says they’ve just run an employee survey to assess engagement and they got low marks in a few areas. One of them is almost always communication. I can lead with, “So how bad were your communication numbers?” and I get murmurs as the collective room begins to take an intense interest in the carpet. Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the time available. A corollary is that the demand for communication will outstrip the channels and tools available. (See “Effective Internal Communications Channels” for more.)

Start at the Edges

While it’s tempting to start trying to reengineer the core processes in the organization, experience says that sometimes it’s better to start at the edges and learn how to reengineer effectively before taking on core processes for reengineering. The core processes of the organization are likely to have people much more protective than processes on the edge, which fewer people care about. Once you have successes with the edge processes, people are more likely to want you to help with the core processes. However, an even better starting point is reading Reengineering the Corporation.

Book Review-Facilitating Organization Change: Lessons from Complexity Science

Sometimes, the lines between disciplines swirl into a beautiful fractal dance, as some things from organizational development bleed into organizational change and vice-versa. Facilitating Organization Change: Lessons from Complexity Science seeks to share what we know about complexity and the relative futility of trying to control every aspect of every interaction and instead teach how to shape and harness the waves of change in the organization.

Organizational Development

For an organization to change, it must adopt new behaviors, and those behaviors must be learned somehow. Organizational development is the fancy name for the training departments. It should be training infused with the understanding of organizational needs and the individual skills that are necessary to bring about that change.

Organizational development then builds the capacity for organizational change – and is informed by organizational change. Organizational change efforts expose the organizational needs and individual skills that the organizational development group needs to focus its efforts.

Without a capacity to educate and develop individuals, an organizational change effort is doomed before it starts.

Complex Adaptive Systems

Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) are an awareness of the basics of systems thinking (see Thinking in Systems) and of the reality of wicked problems. (See Dialogue Mapping). At its heart is the acceptance that we cannot prescribe every interaction and every thought that someone might have. Instead, we must find ways to shape the system while minimizing the impact of unintended consequences. (See Diffusion of Innovations.)

Emergent, Irreversible, and Unpredictable

“Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?” set off the common understanding of chaos known as the Butterfly Effect. It’s Edward Lorenz’s 1972 article that helped us to realize that only some things are knowable and therefore only some things are predictable. This forms the basis for the complex nature of CAS.

CAS are reported to have emergent properties. That is, they have properties that cannot be predicted by the mere observation of the individual components. David Bohm said that an oak tree emerges from an acorn. The acorn is the aperture through which the oak tree comes into being. There’s no way – without prior knowledge – to know that something like an oak tree could some from something so tiny as an acorn. (See On Dialogue for more.)

CAS are also irreversible. That is, once they’ve moved forward and changed, they cannot be wound back to a prior point in time. Like Pandora’s box, nothing can put all the evils of the world back in once they’ve escaped. Irreversible mathematical approaches underpin all the public key infrastructure that we use to secure our communications and transactions. Irreversibility is a common if unseen part of our world.

Given these conditions, what hope does anyone have in changing their organization? The answer may just be music to your ears.

A Flock of Seagulls and Jazz

Not the band A Flock of Seagulls but rather a literal flock of seagulls has the properties of a complex adaptive system and the solutions that are common to addressing complex problems. A flock of seagulls isn’t a fixed set of birds, nor is there a single cohesive, informed vision or direction. Instead, the seagulls can operate with a few simple rules. Stay close – but not too close – to your neighbor and keep flying. These two rules can keep a flock of birds together. More elaborate rules may do things like allow geese to travel large distances, but these two rules are enough to keep a flock together.

The resulting behavior seems quite complex. The flock seems to adjust to the environment quickly – and is more able respond to threats than any command-and-control-everything, scripted kind of approach. The complexity of the response comes from several independent actors following simple rules.

Another example of a complex adaptive system is found in the improvisational jazz music that brings experienced musicians together to play with each other. No one knows where the piece is going when it starts, and they begin to improvise new bits together as they weave in and out of leading the music in new directions. Here, the rules are similarly simple: stay in sync with the group – but not too in sync – and keep playing.

The improvisational jazz ensemble will be good if they’re constantly moving the music from one thing to another. They’re simultaneously staying together and stretching the others in new directions.

Environmental Monitoring

Organizations must constantly scan their environments and adapt to respond to threats and opportunities. These have traditionally been done by a research and development or strategy group – or both. This approach requires that someone in the organization is able to see what is happening and propose a reasonable response. While this approach works, it’s not necessarily the most efficient.

What if instead of designated people scanning the environment for changes, everyone in the organization were engaged with environmental monitoring and could highlight changes in the environment too subtle for a person who is scanning everything to see? How much more effective can 1,000 part-time eyes be for seeing opportunities than two or four eyes that are dedicated to the task.

James Surowiecki in The Wisdom of Crowds explains how, by aggregating the estimates of many, we can get very accurate. Our individual biases generally give way to the collective clarity of reasonable answers. Whether it’s counting items in a jar or estimating the weight of a prized livestock animal, the more we can tap into everyone, the better our answers become.

Connected Intelligence

In the end, the recommendation for making organizational change work is by improving the communication, collaboration, and trust across the organization rather than attempting to script every move that everyone should have. Instead of trying to constrain and control the communication and the ways that people collaborate, the objective should be to increase communication, collaboration, and trust – in a sense, pouring gasoline on the flames of organizational chaos. It’s only in this way that we can truly move to Facilitating Organization Change.

Book Review-Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within

Someone must be there to initiate a change. They’re the ones who first see that the ship is sinking or realize there is land across the sea. The folks who go first are rebels. They buck the status quo in the attempt to make things better. Rebels often get a bad rap at work, because they fight against everything the organization is organized for: consistency. However, Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within can help both the rebel and those who work with rebels harness the power of the rebel without being frustrated.

Good and Bad

When Dorthey landed in Oz, Glinda the Good Witch asked her what kind of witch she was, and her answer was, “Who me? I’m not a witch at all.” Rebels must be conscious of whether their rebellion is being used well or whether it’s alienating them – and their cause. While there are positive, productive ways to be a rebel, there are also negative and potentially career-ending ways to be a rebel. Rebels at Work starts with a table of behaviors and attitudes that characterize good and bad rebels – with the obvious recommendation to be a good rebel.

The rest of the book sets out to explain how those behaviors and attitudes work for the good rebel and seeks to provide a toolkit that rebels can use to become more effective.

Much of the difference between good and bad rebels comes with how they deal with conflict. Effective conflict strategies serve the good rebel, and ineffective conflict strategies are the hallmark of a bad rebel. (If you want to better understand conflict, you can get an email-video series of conflict tips for free.)

Working Ahead

One of the rebel’s gifts is the ability to see the future. In some ways, rebels live with one foot in the future. They’re the people who were admonished by teachers for working ahead. Good rebels are constantly seeing what could be rather than just the broken.

In my junior high school career, I once found my way out of the classroom through working ahead. It was a science class, and the textbook wasn’t that great. The replacement teacher was reading just one chapter ahead of us and apparently not paying that great of attention. He introduced heat as an invisible fluid that flowed through things. Having read the next chapter (and a few more), I corrected him and told him that heat wasn’t an invisible fluid at all but was instead molecular kinetic energy. He wasn’t impressed. However, he was smart. He offered me the chance to play in the science lab area with some mildly radioactive materials that the school had for demonstrating Geiger counters. I loved it, and he loved not having me in the class to disrupt his teaching. It was an uneasy time and just one of many where my rebellious tendencies made my life uncomfortable.

The view of time in Rebels at Work is different than mine. I view differences in the way people see time from the point of view of The Time Paradox while they have a different source. However, that being said, the point is the same. Some people are past-focused, some are present-focused, and some are future-focused. Good rebels, it turns out, are largely future-focused.

Characteristics of a Successful Rebel

How can you spot a rebel when you see them? It turns out that they look very much like everyone else. What’s different is that rebels are curious, easily bored, creative, open-minded, skeptical, and flexible. However, the characteristics of a successful rebel include the perseverance and tenacity to see a change through. Rebels tend to be less disciplined, and since they’re easily bored, they’ll be ready to move on before the change in the organization is done. (See Grit for about the role of perseverance and tenacity more.)

Rebel Reliance on Trust

A rebel’s effectiveness at accomplishing change in the organization is built on a foundation of trust. That trust is found both in the rebel themselves and in the idea the rebel has for making things better. Rebels at Work builds on the work of Trust Rules for the perspective on trust. I have a more nuanced view that is more accurately explained in Trust => Vulnerability => Intimacy and Trust => Vulnerability => Intimacy, Revisited.

Organizational Natives

Where Kotter in Buy-In focused on the kinds of objections that might occur from people who are in an organization (though the example is a public issue, not a corporate one), Rebels at Work focuses on four kinds of people you’ll run into in an organization who may be helpful – or harmful – in your attempt to accomplish change:

  • Bureaucratic Black Belt (BBB) – These folks want to follow the rules, and if you’re willing to work with them to push your change through the existing rules, they may be helpful – or they may find rules that block your proposed change.
  • Tugboat Pilots – They’re used to navigating difficult waters and are willing to do that with you if your change promises results.
  • Benevolent Bureaucrat – They’re focused on the process, and as a result, they may block your proposed change since it may change the process.
  • Wind Surfer – These self-interested parties will be interested in your idea in so much as it helps them. When it stops helping them, they’ll change their tune and move on to the next thing.

You’ll need to work with the organizational natives to get your change made, whether they’re actively resisting or they just seem like they’re in your way. The more you can focus your efforts on helping them meet their goals, the more likely they are to help you meet yours.

Taking the Heat

Rebels, for all their good will, need to accept their fate. In most cases, rebels won’t be marked fairly on performance reviews or considered impartially for promotions. Even when the rebel is right, they’ve made people uncomfortable, and that discomfort will linger in the air around a rebel. Rebels may be the ones drawing attention to the elephant in the room, but at some point, once people see the elephants, they’re going to see the piles that the elephant left behind.

Ultimately, rebels need the fortitude to stand up and lead people in the right direction even when that is difficult. That takes an unusual degree of integrity and fortitude, but it just might make or break your ability to be one of the Rebels at Work.

Book Review-Leading Culture Change in Global Organizations: Aligning Culture and Strategy

Daniel Denison and his colleagues, Robert Hooijberg, Nancy Lane, and Colleen Lief, are focused on how to change the culture of global organizations. Far from the approaches that work for individuals and aware of Peter Drucker’s statement that culture eats strategy for lunch, they are Leading Culture Change in Global Organizations: Aligning Culture and Strategy. (Drucker’s comment is sometimes quoted as culture eats strategy for breakfast, but there doesn’t seem to be a definitive source for this quotation.)

On the Shoulders of Schein

The book starts with a reminder of Edgar Schein’s work through “Either you manage the culture, or it manages you,” and “The importance of distinguishing underlying assumptions from values and behaviors, or superficial artifacts.” In short, there’s something happening below the surface of your activities, and you ignore them at your peril. Change the Culture, Change the Game shares a similar model focused on how to change the experiences that people have to shift their beliefs, so that you can get the right actions and the right results.

They continue to quote Schein in saying that effective cultures always need to solve two problems at the same time: external adaptation and internal integration. That is to say that culture must adapt to changing conditions outside the organization as well as the aspects of the organization which naturally change.

Organizational Chemistry

Back in 2015, I wrote a post about organizational chemistry, in which I explained that the components of culture are the people of the organization and the environment. While this may an oversimplification, the core understanding that culture is a changeable thing is critical to being able to accomplish the goal of moving change from the relatively infrequent periods to the current state where change comes continuously. If you can’t change the culture, you’ll constantly be fighting a losing battle as you seek to introduce change at a rate faster than the organization can accept. It’s what Darryl Conner calls Future Shock in Leading at the Edge of Chaos.

In addition to the challenges of articulating culture, there’s a deeper problem of learning how to create it.

The Toyota Production System (TPS), Lean Manufacturing, and the Transformation

In Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management, the architect of the Toyota Production System and lean manufacturing explains the key points to the system. He makes no attempt to hide or obscure concepts. Still, the gap between knowing how the system works and transforming your organization to it remains large. The truth is that the system that evolved into lean manufacturing challenges the kind of deeply held and largely unconscious assumptions that Edgar Schein warned us of.

Even if you know exactly how you need the system to operate, the way you can change the system to match that new configuration may remain a mystery. While concepts like only producing what you need, receiving parts just in time, and supporting frontline workers stopping the line, there are decades of experience built up that these things aren’t safe or right.

Don’t Burn Down the House

Darryl Conner, in Managing at the Speed of Change, relates a story of an oil rig explosion and a literal burning platform from which a man jumped and survived. Since then, people have stated that you need to have a burning platform to get the change started. Kotter’s first step is to create a sense of urgency. However, there’s a challenge to be overcome where you must create a sense of urgency but in a way that doesn’t create too much stress so that people can’t think or shut down. (See Drive and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers for more on the impacts of stress.)

The goal is to provide a motivating path forward, something that draws people in rather than leaving them little choice except to jump. Of course, there are times that require a leap from the organization, but using that as a primary strategy tends to burn up your credibility and burn people out.

The Quick Turn and the Slow Burn

The first decision to make when changing a culture is whether the cultural change will be a quick turnaround or whether it will be a transformation – a slow burn. Both approaches have their challenges and consequences and rarely is it clear which solution is best. Should you gradually pull off the Band-Aid, or should you do it quickly and get it over with? The answer depends upon the situation and whether the Band-Aid is a literal or a figurative one.

Some situations are conveniently illustrative. When you hire a turn-around CEO when the organization is hemorrhaging cash, the choice is clear. Similarly, an institution with a long history of trust and prestige or a government organization will necessarily require a longer-term approach. Ultimately, leaders must pick an approach and accept the consequences of the choice they pick.

12 Things

Ultimately Denison’s approach is based on his Denison Organizational Culture Survey. It has four main areas (quadrants), each of which has three sub-components:

  • Mission
    • Strategic Direction and Intent
    • Goals and Objectives
    • Vision
  • Adaptability
    • Creating Change
    • Customer Focus
    • Organizational Learning
  • Involvement
    • Empowerment
    • Team Orientation
    • Capability Development
  • Consistency
    • Core Values
    • Agreement
    • Coordination and Integration

These are the key ingredients of Leading Culture Change in Global Organizations.

Book Review-Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward

Change books generally fall into two broad categories. The first category of books is targeted at the super-large organization and describes structures for change that involve hundreds or thousands of people. The second category of change books are focused on how to accomplish the individual changes necessary. The first category generally acknowledges that all change is individual change. That any organization doesn’t change unless its people change. That source of awareness seems to come back to Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward. Based on the work of James Prochaska, John Norcross, and Carlo DiClemente, the book shares how the most stubborn addictions can be broken by an awareness of where people are along a continuum of progress, from being completely resistant to change to the termination of bad behaviors.

Transtheoretical Model and Stages of Change

It was 1972 when Lester Luborsky first published his findings that all legitimate psychological therapies produce favorable and nearly equivalent outcomes. His work has been replicated repeatedly, as The Heart and Soul of Change elaborates on. However, at the same time, the rates of recovery for those who are addicted is abysmally low. As a result, Prochaska and his colleagues (graduate students and then collaborators) looked for explanations of the problems associated with both self-changers and those seeking therapy to identify what was successful and what was not.

Ultimately, their approach was a transtheoretical model – that is, it spanned multiple theories. It focused on six stages of change – and therefore is often simply called “stages of change.” The stages are:

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance
  • Termination

What they found is that, at different stages, different approaches were more appropriate than others. They surmised that the “up to 93% drop-out rate” for therapy programs was due to a mismatch of the approaches being used and the stage that the patient was in.

All Change is Self-Change

Mirroring Rogers’ observation of Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices, the trio discovered that, ultimately, it was a personal decision to make the change that mattered. This was true whether the person engaged a mental health professional or not – they ultimately had to make the change themselves.

It reminds me of an old joke. “How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?” The answer? “One, but the lightbulb really has to want to change.”

The fundamental awareness that any change including those surrounding addictions come from personal commitment drives the awareness that organizational changes are the results of individual changes.

Understanding Addiction

Very few people understand addiction. It’s a different kind of thinking and lack of control that can seem foreign even to those who are in its grips. If you’re trying to understand how addiction functions, I’d recommend The Globalization of Addiction and Chasing the Scream as solid references. You may also find Dreamland helpful for enhancing your understanding of the unique dynamics that power addiction and why addicts can be so difficult to change.

Mental Shields Up

When you have trouble getting through to someone whom you’d like to change, you may find yourself on the outside of their mental shields. Detecting an attack, their ego seeks to protect itself. Approaches like those relayed in Motivational Interviewing may help you break through; but, ultimately, if someone’s mental shields are up, they may be unable to accept input about their behaviors.

In addictive behaviors, there are generally consequences that can be pointed to that make it clear that there’s a problem – except the defenses our ego can muster are impressive. (See Change or Die for more.) After all, our reality is a thing that our brains construct, and it’s possible to construct our reality in a way that denies objective fact. (See Incognito for more.)

ABCs

All behaviors – good and bad – have antecedents (A), behaviors (B), and consequences (C). When you pay attention to the process, you can find the antecedents (triggers) and learn to limit them through environmental control (or shaping) or learn to respond to the triggers with different responses. (See Triggers for more about the potential antecedents and what to do about them.)

Despite the limitations of Charles Duhigg’s research and approaches, his The Power of Habit encourages you to shift things until the old habits are extinguished and the new habits start to take hold. Much of this is about changing the reaction to the trigger by creating better awareness.

If Only They Would Change

People stuck in the precontemplation stage aren’t interested in changing themselves. They’re interested in those around them changing. They want less conversation about their issue. They want less nagging. They want others to compensate for them. These approaches are the kindling for a fire of codependency. (For more on codependency, see Compelled to Control.) Because people who are in precontemplation can’t take responsibility for themselves, they ask others to take responsibility for them.

Self-Efficacy and Hopelessness

One of the things that holds people back in their change is the feeling that they’re powerless to overcome their addiction. They have tried in the past, and because they weren’t successful, they assume they’ll never be successful and therefore they don’t even want to consider it. It’s an amazing level of defensiveness for the fragile ego that anyone who has tried to convince someone with an addiction to change is familiar with.

It’s difficult to move people who believe they have little or no self-efficacy that they do. It’s difficult to help others shift from the belief that their circumstances are permanent and personal to temporary and global. This is hopelessness at its core, and it holds people prisoner. (See The Hope Circuit for more on the power of hopelessness.)

Willpower

Much of this hopelessness hangs on the idea that if someone had enough willpower, they’d somehow be able to successfully conquer the forces that keep them trapped in their current behaviors. The problem is this is a faulty understanding of willpower. Willpower is a renewable but exhaustible resource. As Willpower explains, we have to manage and conserve our use of our willpower so that we’re able to have enough reserves when we really need it. Too often, we treat willpower like it’s something that you have or don’t have instead of as a resource that’s constantly changing.

Influence and Nudge both cover the impact of small changes and how they affect behavior as well as how small changes that reduce the need for willpower can have huge results. Sometimes, eliminating the small temptations frees your resources up for larger problems.

Gang Undesirable

One of the strange things that researchers noticed was that undesirable behaviors tended to travel in packs. If you think of a bar, you instantly think alcohol. However, until a few years ago, you would have also associated a bar with thick, smoke-filled air. Nicotine and alcohol travel together, but they’re just the beginning. Have you noticed that most bar food is not good for you? It’s fried, fatty, and loaded with salt and calories.

The bad news is that the gang tries to stay together. Light your first cigarette, and you may want a drink. The good news is that, when you sequentially eliminate bad habits, the later habits are much easier to get rid of – not just because of practice but because the other habits aren’t there to pull you in.

Intervening and Interfering

One of the greatest powers in assisting recovery is the community around you. This community is the larger community – it’s easier to quit smoking when it’s socially unacceptable, the communities of friends you select, and your family. It’s easier to quit smoking when your partner doesn’t smoke. It’s easier to quit smoking when your parents don’t light up when you arrive.

In addition to the subtle cues, it’s important to get caring feedback about your health. However, in some families, any attempt to share your perspective with another family member isn’t seen as an intervention for their wellbeing or caring – it’s seen as interfering.

When you’re interfering, you’re treading into their personal space – a space that you should never enter. Somehow, if they want to kill themselves, it should be okay. While they might support intervening if your family member is holding a gun to their own head, they don’t support you saying something when they’re holding a cigarette up to their head.

The lesson is finding a healthy understanding of what it means to caringly share your concerns about a family members health without accepting the interfering label. Often this also needs a great deal of capacity for detachment. (See Resilient for more on detachment.)

Contemplation: Not Ready to Make the Leap

During the contemplation stage, it’s natural to want to push for action. It’s natural to desire action, because we equate action with progress. However, sometimes the people who are in the contemplation phase have decided they need to make the change, but they just don’t know when. They’re not able to plan for how to make the change because they’ve decided rationally on the change, but they’ve not emotionally accepted the losses that will come as a natural consequence of the changes.

If you’ve accepted the emotional consequences of learning how to change better, maybe it’s time to read Changing for Good.

Book Review-Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage

Any publicity is good publicity isn’t true; however, often, publicity can be good publicity. In Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage, David Meerman Scott walks you through the process of getting attention you don’t deserve.

Newsjacking

In short, newsjacking is finding a way to insert yourself into a story that isn’t yours – or to amplify your presence in a story that is yours. Newsjacking is about getting attention by being well-placed to take advantage of journalists’ need to cover breaking stories. While Scott doesn’t break things down like this, I tend to think about these in terms of stories and social.

Stories

For some time now, I’ve been receiving notices about journalists who are working on stories and need credible people to quote. Having written a few books and having a few gray hairs makes me more than qualified to be credible in some circles. So, when the topic of burnout is something that journalists need to know more about or quote someone for, I’m happy to jump in. (My wife, Terri, and I published Extinguish Burnout: A Practical Guide to Prevention and Recovery for The Society for Human Resource Management in 2019.)

The good news here is that you can get some good mentions and inbound links. For instance, The New York Times article that quoted me drove about 700 people to the website in the first week. The long-tail impact is hard to measure, since the link immediately increased our Google page rank. The bad news is that there are a lot of pitches you make to journalists that won’t make it. Though Scott didn’t mention it here – or in his last book The New Rules of Marketing and PR – the main source of journalists looking for quotes that I use is Help A Reporter Out (HARO).

These tend – for me – to be less about newsjacking and more about being persistent in sending a message for a long time.

Social

The real key to newsjacking is seeing a trend on social media and grabbing it. Whether it’s a fire and you start offer free fire training or it’s something that you can connect to with a weird angle or connection, finding something on social then becoming a notable bit for the story can be valuable and can land you in the center of the story.

The trick to newsjacking is coming between the breaking story and the scramble for journalists to come up with more about it – including a unique angle. My problem with this is that you’re going to be chasing a lot of stories that look like they might break only to find a small number that actually convert into journalists looking for something new.

Noisy

Another challenge to the approach – for me – is that you must be noisy and available. That means trumpeting your perspective via every channel known to man – even smoke signals and carrier pigeons. For me, that will turn off my regular followers as I bombard them with the kind of things that journalists might find interesting.

It also means making yourself easily available. Demand explains that small barriers stop people in their tracks, and when it comes to a story, something as insignificant as leaving a voice mail may be a major hurdle. The net effect is that you’ve got to be willing and able to answer the phone the moment it rings – without sounding like you’re desperate.

Newsy

For me, the biggest problem is that I’m not very newsy. I don’t read all the sites, watch the latest happenings, or generally get all that concerned about what some star ate five minutes ago and who they were with. That makes Newsjacking a bad fit for me. However, maybe for you, the only thing that separates you from your next stardom is Newsjacking.

Book Review-Cleaning Up: How Hospital Outsourcing Is Hurting Workers and Endangering Patients

One of the challenging ethical dilemmas that faces physicians is when parents of a child tell them to do whatever they can to keep their child alive. The problem is that, no matter how painful it is, there are some situations where death is the right answer. It’s not an easy call, and no one involved likes the answer, but sometimes there are no real chances for a meaningful recovery. The dilemma for the physician is how much to do and when is the time to compassionately tell the parents it’s time to end the suffering – even if there are technically more things that can be done.

One thing that shouldn’t require this degree of struggle is having a clean – and disinfected – hospital room for the care of patients. However, the research is clear that most rooms aren’t cleaned well. Things are missed and patients are getting sick because of it. Dan Zuberi believes that at least part of the problem is the outsourcing of environmental services workers. In Cleaning Up: How Hospital Outsourcing Is Hurting Workers and Endangering Patients, he lays out the case that something must be done to improve patient safety.

Healthcare Associated Infections

To understand what’s at stake, it’s important to realize that healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) account for additional suffering for around 2 million Americans each year. Of those, roughly 100,000 will die. HAIs are infections that you didn’t have when you arrived at the hospital but that you acquired during your stay. While some progress has been made on reducing HAI rates, they remain strikingly high.

Based on many factors, including the region you’re in, the socioeconomic factors of patients, and the kinds of care that a hospital provides, there’s an expected rate of HAIs. These expected rates are baked into the way that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) pays hospitals. Hospitals are not reimbursed for the care that they provide related to an HAI. Additionally, when a hospital’s rates are poor compared to others in the industry, they face penalties that can be millions or even tens of millions of dollars. A single infection can cost a hospital over $100,000 dollars but may be as low as approximately $13,000. Collectively, the costs of the infections and the penalties are staggering.

Despite this, the expected rate is generally around 0.12 percent per patient per day. So, it is expected that for every 1,000 patient-days in the hospital, there will be 1.2 infections. This doesn’t sound all that substantial until you realize that an expected rate like this creates a greater than 50% chance that someone will have contracted an HAI in your room in the preceding year.

The cost in human suffering and finances to the healthcare system are substantial, and they should be unacceptable. If the airline industry had a similar failure rate, no one would fly or there would be a monumental outcry. However, because HAIs are hidden and distributed across the world, there is no uproar.

Environmental Cleaning

Most of the focus on environmental cleaning surrounds the so-called “terminal” clean. This is supposed to be a complete cleaning and disinfection of the room, and it’s supposed to happen between patients. The problem is that the research shows less than 50% of the high-risk objects (HROs) are cleaned in an average terminal clean. HROs might also be called “high-touch” objects, because they’re the things that are touched all the time. They’re bedrails, light switches, doorknobs, tables, and so on. The result of this poor cleaning is there’s a 40% higher chance of catching an HAI based on the person who had the room before you having that particular infection.

Zuberi pins the problem of poor cleaning on the movement to outsourcing environmental services, though my own research indicates that this is at best an aggravating factor rather than a smoking gun.

Outsourcing the Source of Evil

Outsourcing is done to reduce costs. The general idea is that another organization can run a function better than you can run it in house. You pay them for a service, and they can deliver it at a lower cost. It’s a standard approach across all industries. Relatively universally, it has challenges.

The winning bidder is often unprepared to deliver the service at the level of delivery that the organization is used to getting. Whether we’re talking about help desks or facilities maintenance, often the “savings” are due to a lower quality of service. Even when they want to maintain quality standards, they’re forced to pay less and offer fewer benefits to extract the profitability necessary to pay for the management and sales overhead. The push to lower pay results in higher turnover and therefore increased training costs.

Management at the outsourced contract provider are constantly trying to manage their cost profile to ensure that they remain profitable while sometimes making decisions that hurt them in the long term.

Aligning Metrics

The key to effective outsourcing is to align the incentives for everyone such that the situation is a win/win or lose/lose rather than win/lose or lose/win. When metrics aren’t designed well, situations arise where what is in one party’s best interest is not in the best interest of the other party. Such is the case with most environmental services contracts.

Even when metrics are aligned correctly, the necessary work to collect and verify the metrics isn’t done – because that adds additional costs to the system. As a case in point, there are sometimes – but not always – performance guarantees. However, these require audits of performance, which, because they’re awkward and difficult, are rarely done.

More perversely, rarely are environmental services organizations held accountable for any degree of increased HAIs – even when it’s possible to nearly directly associate those infections with poor cleaning practices. As a result, organizations are incented to reduce the cost of cleaning by reducing time, labor costs, supplies, or any other means necessary – irrespective of whether those decisions negatively impact the patients or the hospital system with whom they’re contracted.

The Working Poor

The result of wage pressures means that the workers are working – sometimes two or three jobs – for such little money that they can barely make ends meet or are slowing falling into an economic pit that they can’t recover from. This is while they’re facing challenges that put them at risk every day. They carry high degrees of stress that compromise their immune system’s capacity to combat the pathogens they encounter daily. (See Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers for more on the impact of stress to the immune system.)

In the struggle to make ends meet, they’ll change jobs for a small increase in pay, because the risk of changing jobs is smaller than the impact the pay increase can mean to their family. Zuberi contends that the wage of workers was nearly cut in half when environmental services were outsourced. This pressure means there’s a scramble to recover the wages they once had. The resulting turnover increases the non-compensation costs of the organization, applying more pressure to the managers to cut costs.

Non-compensation costs include the cost of recruiting, hiring, training, and managing payroll for the organization. Consider the initial recruiting, setup, and training costs for an employee might be $4,000. When wages for the employee are in the $12/hour range, the training and setup costs are roughly 20% of the first-year wages. When turnover is greater than 50% per year, this creates more than 10% of the total cost of the employees. Additionally, the constant turnover creates chronic shortages, further reducing the quality of the cleaning.

Fixing a Broken System

For us, Terri and I, we want to reduce HAIs. That’s why we pursued the patent on the moisture indicating IV dressing. It’s also why we’re making a substantial investment into the development of an augmented reality environmental services training program (AREST). We want to teach environmental services workers how to clean in a way that works for them, is effective, and isn’t expensive. In a sense, we’re trying to do our part to start the process of Cleaning Up the challenges with environmental services. Maybe you can do your part: start by reading Cleaning Up.

Book Review-Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity

I think everyone wants the easy life. We’d love for things to be effortless. We’d all love to be powerful. These things are at the heart of Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity. Though we all want to get to effortless and powerful, no one seems to have cracked the magic formula.

Wu-Wei (“OOO-WAY”) and De (“DUH”)

To set the context, we need understand two Chinese words. The first is wu-wei, which is pronounced “ooo-way”. This word is literally “no trying” or “no doing” but is about effortless and unconscious. The second word is de, pronounced “duh.” It is virtue, power, or charismatic power. It’s the thing that others see and can’t put their finger on but know they want. When we’re doing wu-wei, then de naturally follows. The more we can be in an effortless state, the more de we radiate.

System 1 and System 2

The concept of things being effortless doesn’t mean that things are being done. It’s more accurate to say that things are getting done automatically from what Daniel Kahneman calls System 1. (See Thinking, Fast and Slow for more.) It’s the hot cognition that happens seemingly without thought. It’s automatic.

The need to consider, ponder, and evaluate slows things down and feels unnatural. The effortlessness embodied in wu-wei is the kind of automatic processing that Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool describe in Peak. It’s when there has been so much purposeful practice that everything has been converted into something that happens effortlessly – without conscious thought.

Steven Kotler speaks of the same thing in The Rise of Superman when he explains that athletes need to get into flow – and stay there – if they’re going to accomplish the amazing and seemingly superhuman things that they do. Kotler bases his work on the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Flow.

Going with the Flow

Slingerland is careful to draw some distinction between wu-wei and flow. He explains that the focus on the relative degree of challenge between skill and challenge has become a preoccupation with Csikszentmihalyi’s work, and how this challenge isn’t conducive to effortlessness. Here, Slingerland has a point that Csikszentmihalyi’s initial data didn’t always reflect folks who were in challenging situations when he did his initial research. Sometimes, folks who reported the conditions associated with flow were doing rather mundane things.

J. Keith Miller commented in A Hunger for Healing about a Zen saying, “After enlightenment, draw water, chop wood.” Mark Epstein in Advice Not Given says, “After the ecstasy, it is said, comes the laundry.” Thupten Jinpa in A Fearless Heart explains that what we call walking meditation is a part of “post-sitting practices” – the idea being that monks bring full awareness to their everyday activities not just when they’re sitting meditating. In short, our attainment of enlightenment doesn’t free us from the simple work of life; we need to continue to find peace, joy, and effortlessness in all we do.

Kathleen Norris in Acedia & Me comments that she regains herself by doing ordinary things. She drains away the challenges of acedia – which is roughly equivalent to burnout in today’s language – by doing things in an effortless and accepting way. (You can learn much more about burnout at ExtinguishBurnout.com)

While Slingerland takes issue with Csikszentmihalyi’s focus on challenge, he does so in the context of ancient Chinese thinkers, who struggled to find the way to effortless action. When we think about this instead as enlightenment or bliss, we can distance ourselves from the specific concern of challenge and turn the question on its head. The answer as to whether the path to wu-wei is paved with effort, without effort, or with only some kinds of effort seems unclear. What is clear is that the destination seems to have been found by several who took different roads.

Indirect Acquisition

Some states are only reachable through indirect means. Consider happiness. Those who pursue it are often miserable. They believe that somehow they need to be happier than they are. Many books have been written more or less explicitly about how to find happiness, including Stumbling on Happiness, which explains that most of the time what we believe will make us happy doesn’t – or doesn’t for long. Happiness looks at happiness from the perspective of a skill rather than an end-state and narrowly avoids the trap that you’re never in the state “enough,” because you can always become more skillful at something.

The trick it seems with wu-wei is that you can’t pursue it directly. This reminds me of the story of the two Hindu goddesses – wealth and knowledge – and only by pursuing knowledge will wealth come to you. (See The Heretic’s Guide to Management and A Philosopher’s Notes for more.)

Two Selves

One of my favorite models of all time is Jonathan Haidt’s Elephant-Rider-Path model from The Happiness Hypothesis. The rational rider (System 2) sits on top of the emotional elephant (System 1), and they’re in a constant battle for control. The elephant allows the rider to feel like they’re in control until the elephant starts to care deeply about something.

The key to wu-wei is to build a relationship between our elephant and our rider such that both trust the other rather than distrusting the other. By integrating these two aspects of our psyche with respect, we spend less time battling internally and have more energy to share with the world.

In Service of Other

To get to wu-wei, we’re encouraged to do things in service of bigger things, like improving others’ lives or moving forward humanity. This sentiment seems to be wired into our being based on the game theory attempts of Axelrod in The Evolution of Cooperation. Folks like Robert Greenleaf urge us to pursue Servant Leadership. Many have written about the power of doing things for others and how this makes us feel better.

Even twelve-step groups are clear about the power of service to harmonize people and make them return to a state of being more whole.

Domestication

It’s not that any of us always have pure thoughts or thoughts about others. Even the work of the Jesuits wasn’t successful in eliminating these selfish tendencies. (See Heroic Leadership.) However, the more that we seek to channel our passions in ways that are positive, the more domesticated our passions become and the less energy we must spend trying to consciously control them.

Returning our energies to other things, we can accept the occasional selfish thought while recognizing a generally other-focused perspective on life.

Step-by-Step Guide

Perhaps the greatest challenge to wu-wei or any form of enlightenment is that there is no one who can show off the path to achieve it. There’s no 3, 6, 8, or even 12-step guides to becoming enlightened. Instead, there are a variety of thoughts and approaches and a seemingly endless array of folks who have made it there but are unable to articulate their path.

For the few who are able to articulate a path of enlightenment, they seem focused on very high bars of self-sacrifice. These high bars are not the kind that most people can make – and as a result, they can’t follow the recipe. Perhaps this is intentional, or perhaps it’s a rare person who is able to reach enlightenment or moral goodness. However, perhaps it’s that the shallow slope needed by most people to reach this elusive state isn’t a prescriptive path that leads to predictable results. Perhaps the path is the result of the person themselves and what they need most.

Compensation for Virtuous Acts

Some people do virtuous acts. Whether it’s work, a connection, money, or whatever to help someone else out, these virtuous acts help drive our interconnectedness as a society – until we learn that there’s a catch. They’re not really being virtuous. They’re doing something for us with the expectation of something in return. More than just karma, they expect that they’ll get some sort of tangible benefit from it.

We’ve learned to distrust even the virtuous act for fear that people want something from it.

Unfakeable

In Inside Jokes, there is the suggestion that we may connect with others who share comedy with us, because, at their very, core your response to jokes is unfakeable. Paul Ekman coined the Duchenne smile as a genuine one. (See Emotional Awareness, Trust Me, and Social Engineering for more.) This unfakeable nature makes them ideal for detection. If someone is able to display the Duchenne smile, then they must really like it.

Similarly, it’s thought that wu-wei shows a naturalness that cannot be faked. A peacock’s feathers are an extravagance that serves no material purpose except to show peahens that the peacock has something going on – otherwise he couldn’t afford to spend such effort to make such lavish feathers. With wu-wei, you cannot fake the naturalness, because to do so would require conscious control, which would break the whole flow of the moment. In The Rise of Superman, Kotler shares the stories of high-performance, extreme athletes who are killed by their sports, presumably because they tried overthinking their situation and couldn’t make the right moves at the right time.

Trying Not to Try is a paradox. It’s something that must be accepted. That being said, it seems like if you’re going to try not to try, you’ll have to read Trying Not to Try first.

Book Review-The Human Side of Change: A Practical Guide to Organization Redesign

In the late 1990s, there was a growing awareness of the importance of people in the organizational change process. Too many failed mergers and acquisitions had opened a small awareness of the need to consider how people may or may not follow the leadership wishes blindly. That’s where The Human Side of Change: A Practical Guide to Organization Redesign comes in: it’s Timothy Galpin’s effort to create better awareness and tools for managing the people side of the change process.

The Model

I stumbled across Galpin’s work through my exploration of change models. His model, which consists of nine wedges, is a process for improving the chances for a change project to be successful. It looks like this:

The steps he includes are familiar:

  1. Establish the need for change
  2. Develop and disseminate a vision of the change
  3. Diagnose/analyze the current situation
  4. Generate recommendations
  5. Detail recommendations
  6. Pilot test recommendations
  7. Prepare recommendations for rollout
  8. Rollout changes
  9. Measure, reinforce, and refine changes

These steps parallel most of the other models for change, including the need to create a sense of urgency (Kotter), to unfreeze (Lewin) and others. It’s familiar, because its circular or cyclical nature implies that the process is iterative or continuous – like Deming’s PDCA/PDSA.

The Reality of People

The key insights that Galpin offers are around how people really behave as compared to how we want them to behave. For instance, knowing that experts are often boxed in by their hidden assumptions about the way things work, so what they see is not what might be. Similarly, Galpin is clear that often the grapevine – the informal communications network – quickly takes control from the formal communications as for what is happening in the organization.

He’s also clear that people are not always transparent. There are things that they hide from others for reasons of fear, the desire to maintain power over others, or sheer apathy at sharing the information. The way that this plays out in an organization is a Johari Window.

Johari Window

I’ve spoken about the idea of the Johari Window in both The Black Swan and The Secret Lives of Adults. The short version is that it’s a two-by-two grid separated along the axis of us and others, with each having an unknown and a known option. The original work goes back to Joseph Luft and was used in the context of individuals and their self-awareness. Galpin extends this to the organization and helps us to see how organizations suffer from the same blind spots and facades that individuals do.

In short, organizations must be careful to learn as much as possible about themselves to minimize blind spots. With the exception of the brand image, care must be taken to not create too large of a facade that must be maintained. Communications – internally and externally – should be realistic and honest.

Communications

Galpin supports many of the kinds of communications recommendations that you’d expect, including the need to be more open than one might want to be at first, messages should be linked strategically, and they should be proactive rather than reactive. More interesting is the comment that communications should be realistic and honest.

Brené Brown speaks about how people minimize the grit that was necessary for them to reach where they are. She calls it “gold plating grit” in Rising Strong. It’s the tendency to minimize or deflect the challenges. Galpin’s call to be honest forces us as communicators to acknowledge the challenges – and ideally help the organization know how we’re going to conquer them. It’s too easy for us to deceive ourselves into believing our change project will be easy.

The Resistance

Galpin speaks about the resistance as: not knowing, not able, and not willing. These roughly equate to the phases of ADKAR to increase awareness, desire, knowledge, and ability. I resist Galpin’s framing of this because of the awareness of Bridges’ work on managing transitions, which focuses the awareness on resistance of loss instead of resistance of the change.

The top level of Galpin’s model – not willing – is rare and may represent folks who are in the precontemplation phase in the Stages of Change model. That being said, the resistance is still focused on loss – of the current status quo – towards something new.

Coaching

Galpin is an advocate of coaching, carefully explaining that coaching is positive, and criticism focuses mostly on the negative. He’s also a fan of being clear up front that everyone will be receiving coaching. In An Everyone Culture, Robert Kegan et al. share the strategies from three organizations and how powerful it can be to build a culture of accountability that believes everyone should be coached from every direction.

Maybe it’s time to get a bit of coaching towards The Human Side of Change.