Book Review-The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind

Catalysts are different.  They make chemical reactions happen faster – but they’re not consumed in the process.  For those who are driving change, being a catalyst is what you want: better results without being used up.  The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind is a journey through the techniques that allow people accomplish change without being used up.

Immunity to Change

The key question is “Why hasn’t that person changed already?  What is blocking them?”  This is the precise question that Immunity to Change tries to answer.  Whether it’s a gap between espoused and in-practice beliefs or something as simple as not being aware of the need to change, before we look to coerce or push someone towards change, we should ask why they’re not changing already.  Influencer describes ways that you can encourage people to change using six different approaches.


The Catalyst proposes that there are five principles of change:

  1. Reactance – When pushed, people push back.
  2. Endowment – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  3. Distance – People don’t want to be persuaded.
  4. Uncertainty – Change often involves uncertainty.
  5. Corroborating Evidence – Sometimes one person, no matter how knowledgeable, is not enough.

These principles are echoes of things said by others.  For instance, in Diffusion of Innovations, Everett Rogers explains that people need to understand the relative advantage (endowment), that people change their attitudes through people they connect with (distance), and that the changes need to be compatible and trialable (to reduce uncertainty).  Compelled to Control explains that while we all want to control others, none of us really wants to be controlled (reactance).  In Changing Minds, it covers the idea of “storm the castle” (corroborating evidence).


If you tell jurors to ignore testimony, they may unconsciously weight it more heavily.  When you tell people they have to do something, they often resist it more vehemently than they would have had they not been told to do it.  We’ve tapped into what Fascinate would call rebellion.  It’s what Steven Reiss in his 16 motivators would call independence.  (See Who Am I?)  Jonathan Haidt, in the foundations of morality, calls it liberty.  (See The Righteous Mind.)  When people feel as if their freedom and independence is threatened, they sometimes experience a boomerang effect – they more strongly defend their right to not do what they’re being asked to do.  (See Decision Making for more on the boomerang effect.)

Paradox of Choice

Specific calls to action result in higher rates of response.  However, they can trigger resistance.  Giving people options helps them feel like they’re in control.  However, too many options will lead to anxiety, as The Paradox of Choice explains.  The goal is to offer a set of options – but not too many options.  The narrow road between these two points leads to others being willing to change.


As humans, we seek apparent coherence between our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.  This need for apparent coherence is addressed in The Joy of Burnout with the idea that the incoherence is friction that stops us from achieving our goals.  Opening Up looks at the need for coherence of the story of our lives as fundamental.  A failure to achieve coherence in a story is therefore disruptive to our psyche.

Angry with the Help

One of the consistent ways to help endear yourself to others is to remain consistent in your intention to help others – and to repeatedly communicate that intention.  When people believe that you’re trying to help them, it’s difficult for them to get – or remain – angry with you.

In Destructive Emotions, the Dalai Lama explains that in Eastern philosophies, anger is disappointment directed.  Disappointment is judgement based, and it’s hard to judge that someone should be doing more to help you.  This perspective is shared by books like Humble Inquiry and Getting to Yes.

Zones of Acceptance and Rejection

Some messages people accept from anyone, and others they only accept when they feel they have no other answers.  Thomas Gilovich explains in How We Know What Isn’t So how we switch the question from “Can I believe this?” to “Must I believe this?” when we move outside of our acceptable zone.  The switch in questions is critical, because the standards for the first question are substantially lower than the second.

When working with others, it can be hard to tease out where their zone of acceptability is and where we’ll cross over into the land of rejection.  This distinction is important, because we want to deliver messages just inside the edge of acceptability to continue to open them up to further and further zones of acceptance.

Motivational Interviewing does this by first establishing rapport and then beginning to elicit information from the person about their addiction (or reason for counseling) with the ultimate goal of focusing them in on a specific aspect of the problem that is solvable and a strategy to address that area.  If we want to change people’s behaviors, we have to know where they’re starting from.

Vitamins and Painkillers

Medicine and pills of all kinds are an essential part of our everyday life, but they’re fundamentally different in the kinds of demands they create.  Vitamins are preventative, long-term pills designed to ensure success over the long term.  An antibiotic doesn’t resolve any immediate problem but provides medium-term relief for a specific problem.  Painkillers, however, solve a specific immediate and important problem.

When you’re describing your change, are you describing it in the language of vitamins – or painkillers?  Must the person make this change, or is it just a good idea?  Only half of the United States population takes vitamins – but nearly everyone will take a painkiller when they need it.


Ultimately, our goal in creating change is to remove the barriers between the person and the new, desirable behaviors.  That means removing small barriers – even if they seem trivial to us – because, as the book Demand explains, small barriers often have a disproportionate blocking capability to their size.  Sometimes, the key thing that needs to be unstuck is the aversion to the things they’ll lose and the uncertainty that comes with the change.  William Bridges in Managing Transitions focuses on these key problems, indicating that they’re the real barrier to change.

Sometimes, unsticking means backing up and taking a broader view.  In others, it means temporarily accepting some untenable premise so that you can hear the other person’s perspective.  Maybe when you’re done, and you understand, you can propose a solution that will make you seem like The Catalyst.

Book Review-The Satir Model

It’s a model that’s sometimes used in the discussion of change, but it was born out of family systems therapy and the awareness of how disruptive events impact family systems. The Satir Model brings a very human and personal element to how changes occur.

Alcohol is the Solution

One of the challenges counselors frequently encounter is that the dysfunctional behavior they’re called in to fix is a symptom of a larger family system problem. Virginia Satir’s insight into this problem began in 1951, when she started seeing more than one member of the family at a time. This allowed her to begin to see how the interaction patterns started to create the problems that therapy was being sought to solve.

The most vivid example of this for me was in Intimacy Anorexia, where Douglas Weiss made it clear that sometimes things are not as they seem. He explains that if you’re trying to make a dog mean by starving it, you don’t do it by withholding all food – you withhold just enough that he’s always hungry and always feeling as if he must fight to get enough food. In the book’s context, the withholding is intimacy, and the result is sometimes sexual addiction or adultery. If you’re presented with these circumstances, you might easily find fault in the adulterer without asking the question about the systems that created those results. (I’m not suggesting the transfer of responsibility, only the full evaluation of the situation.)

A more mundane but powerful response was when my friend shared that drugs or alcohol wasn’t the problem to the addict – it was the solution. It may be a poor solution. It may have negative side effects and consequences, but it’s solving another problem that the addict has. Frequently, it’s a need to numb the pain that they’re feeling in their life due to their family, professional, or social circumstances. Certainly, there’s an aspect of treatment to get folks to stop the coping skill that transformed into an addiction, but there’s a greater need to help the addict find better coping skills that bring life instead of more pain.

Sometimes, changing the coping skills means changing the reactions to the systems that people find themselves in either by getting others within the system to help break the cycle or by developing the specific skills necessary for the person to break the cycle themselves.

Faith in People

Virginia Satir as well as others like Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers had faith that people had value and had the solutions to their own problems. (See A Way of Being for Carl Roger’s perspective.) Other works, like Motivational Interviewing, follow a similar pattern where the patient is treated as the expert on their situation, their environment, and their perspectives. Like a good anthropologist practicing Ethnographic Interviewing, they suspend judgement about what the other person is saying to focus on understanding both what is being said and the hidden meanings that are lurking just beneath the surface.

Satir recognized that a person’s self-esteem had a huge impact on their ability to function and thrive in the world. Martin Seligman in The Hope Circuit describes it slightly differently. Here, he frames it as learned control, the lack of learned helplessness, or a belief that what you’re doing can make a difference. (You may also find Seligman’s book Flourish useful in exposing the power of self-esteem.)

Whole in Parts

The natural tendency is to accept the positive aspects and dismiss the negative aspects. The tendency to be a “go getter” is great professionally but has the negative of making it more difficult to turn off, shut down, and relax. Having the people pleasing personality makes you great at customer service but makes it difficult to tell your family no when they make an unreasonable ask of you. You’re good at creative projects, but sometimes forget to take out the trash.

In every case, we want to accept the positive aspects of our personalities and our identities and minimize the parts of our identities that we don’t believe serve us well. What we fail to realize is that there is no having one without the other. That is not to say that we shouldn’t work to minimize the negative consequences or work towards a better result. It is, however, to say that we can not deny the consequences without cutting off a part of ourselves – a part of ourselves that we need.

The Confidence to Stand Alone

Much has been made about Bowlby and Ainsworth’s attachment styles and the need for children to feel safe to be able to explore. (See The Secret Lives of Adults for more.) There has been research on how mother rats licking and grooming their pups leads to more effective attachment styles in rats. (See How Children Succeed for more.) Satir speaks of it as the intrinsic value and confidence necessary to pursue new things and reveal ourselves.

It’s one thing to speak of attachment styles and courage but quite another to stand alone. As we learned with Asch’s line experiments, if enough people believe something, you’re likely to believe it, too. (See The Lucifer Effect for more.) Find Your Courage seeks to help people, especially those whose attachment styles aren’t initially the best, find ways of expressing themselves more wholly despite these limitations.

Plus One

One of the challenges with any change is the amount of effort required. We sometimes expect that the degree of change that we’ll be forced to undertake is more than we’re able to accomplish on our own. While, at times, this may be necessary, Satir’s perspective was that most situations required only relatively minor adjustments that anyone is capable of making. This perspective of a relatively small amount of change on a relatively large amount of experiences helps to give everyone hope that they can change and be successful. (See The Psychology of Hope for more about generating hope, its components, and its power.)

Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery exposes the best – and worst – of each personality type. Rather than looking at the most positive and the most negative expressions of a personality as radically different, the enneagram looks at them as degrees of functionality that can be adjusted. In most cases, the gap between where we are at and the success we want is very small.

The Four Stances

Satir believes that there are four stances that we can take in any situation. They are:

  • Placating – We disregard our own feelings to accommodate someone else.
  • Blaming – We fail to accept any personal blame and instead look to others outside of ourselves as the cause of our woes.
  • Super-Reasonable – The tendency to discount one party or another in favor of the context of the situation.
  • Irrelevant – Attempts to be amusing our clownish instead of directly addressing the situation at hand.

If one were to put this on a 2×2 grid, one axis would be rationality – the degree of reason that corresponds to the current situation. The other axis is assertiveness, the degree to which a person asserts their will and needs in the situation. In the middle of the grid is a zone of coherent or congruent operation, in which we are the most effective.

Five Freedoms

When operating in any human system, you should expect five basic freedoms, though many of us have learned from our experiences that these aren’t freedoms that we can expect from our families – or in our teams. The five freedoms are:

  • Freedom to see and hear what is real – not what was, should be, or will be.
  • Freedom to say what we think and feel – not what others believe we should.
  • Freedom to feel for real – not what others expect you to feel.
  • Freedom to ask for what you want – instead of waiting for permission.
  • Freedom to take risks and fail – not be frozen in fear.

Understanding Is the Path

Humans have a fundamental need to be understood. When we developed our mind-reading, we developed the expectation that we’d be understood. (See The Righteous Mind and Mindreading for the development of our mind-reading capabilities.) Since then, our humanity has taken a beating. We long to be understood, and too often, we fail to get any validation that we’re being heard. It’s this first little step of feeling heard that allows us to take additional steps forward in working together and healing the broken systems of interaction.

Exploring Expectations

One of the hidden challenges in relationships are those unspoken expectations which lead to judgements. As humans we are, by our very nature, prediction machines. (See Think Again and Changing Minds for more.) We are constantly trying to predict what will happen next. We want to know what lottery numbers will come up, how the stock market will perform, and how people will behave. The core of trusting other people is predicting how they will behave and accepting the possibility that they may betray our predictions. (See Trust=>Vulnerability=>Intimacy, Revisited and Trust: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order for more on trust.)

When we expect someone to behave a certain way and they don’t, we feel betrayed. If we were to tear apart that feeling of betrayal, we’ll find expectations and judgement. The judgement is simply that our expectation was reasonable and right. We feel justified that we should have expected the behavior from the other person and judge them as bad – instead of looking to how our expectations may have been wrong or how extenuating circumstances may have led to their behavior deviating from our expectations.

It’s one-part fundamental attribution error – associating negatives with the character of a person instead of the environment or situation. (Kurt Lewin’s equation uses both “environment” and “situation” in different places, depending on which source you cite.)

Broken Bones

No matter how our bone may have become broken, it’s our responsibility to heal. Sure, we can reach out to others to set the bone in the correct place to heal, and we can get a cast or other reinforcement to prevent further damage during the healing process; but, ultimately, it’s our responsibility to heal ourselves. No amount of fault-finding or blaming the process that caused our bone to become broken will heal it. Yet, often times in relationships, we become overly focused on whose fault it is or who is to blame. (See Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) for more.)

In healing our hurts, we can look to people to set the bones right. We seek out the people who can put the pieces back together in the right place and in the right way so that they’re capable of healing appropriately. In the context of Satir’s work, this is a counselor or therapist who can help identify the broken pieces and how they fit together. In an organizational sense, it may be a coach, advisor, or consultant who helps to restructure broken systems in ways that can be effective.

Once we’re set in place, we will need some protection for this broken area. That’s what Dr. Townsend was talking about when he was discussing temporary boundaries in his book, Beyond Boundaries. Temporary boundaries provide protection while the healing process to taking place.

Finally, we’ve got to do the hard work of healing. Our bodies may automatically take care of part of the process, sometimes creating scar tissue and sometimes not. However, with most broken bones, there is some degree of work to be done consciously in the form of physical therapy to regain all – or at least most – of the capacity that existed before the bone was broken.

Creating Chaos

It seems odd that one would desire to create chaos in any situation unless they’re being malevolent – but chaos is a necessary part of the process of change. If you avoid the chaos, you can’t change people or the systems that they operate in. William Bridges in Managing Transitions describes this as the neutral zone. The old patterns of behavior aren’t in place, but neither are the new desired behaviors. There’s a place where things are being discovered – and are therefore chaotic.

While I’ve never met someone who truly enjoys chaos, I’ve met plenty who can tolerate it and its ambiguities. However, most people can’t even tolerate high degrees of chaos. They want predictability and certainty so that they can feel comfortable that they know what’s coming.

Untangling Feelings

In How Emotions are Made, Lisa Feldman Barrett shares her experiences with trying to understand her emotions and how sometimes what she felt in her body weren’t emotions at all but were, in fact, illness. Richard Lazarus in Emotion and Adaptation takes a more decomposing approach and begins to untangle how we experience stimulus that we interpret, and how those interpretations form our feelings. Too many people have never been taught how to process their feelings, and as a result they insist that “My feelings are just my feelings.” In other words, they came randomly, and they’ll leave randomly.

The problem with this perspective is that you become the victim of your emotions. You can’t control them – or, more accurately, influence them. As a result, you’re beholden to the whims of your emotions, and you can do nothing about it. Taken to the logical extreme, this gives other the power to manipulate you like Pinocchio’s strings. If you have no choice but to react to certain stimuli in a certain way, then all others need to do to control you is create the right stimulus to get the actions they desire.

Most people find the idea that others control them repulsive, even if they’re willing to say, “They made me mad.” The problem with this statement is that it’s giving power to others in ways that they should not and need not. The more we can discover the time between the stimulus and our response, the more capacity we have, to be in control of – or at least influence – our emotions.

Caustic Coping Skills

Addiction is, as one friend said, a coping skill that progressively takes more and more control of the person using it. A glass of wine isn’t a problem, but when the coping skill is now driving the behavior of the person, it’s crossed over into addiction. Satir often said, “The problem isn’t the problem. Coping is.”

Coping can be a problem not just in that you’re overusing a coping skill to the point of it becoming an addiction but also when there are no coping skills available to work with a situation. Maybe the skills that are available are totally insufficient or inappropriate to the situation, and as a result, it’s the approach to coping that is the problem.

Removing Darkness

It’s structurally impossible to find darkness and remove it. You can’t remove darkness. You can’t undo the bad, the dysfunctional, and the painful directly. All you can do to remove darkness is to add light. Instead of focusing on eliminating the negative, we have to focus on how we can add the positive.

Aperture Power

Satir used the idea that a seed has tremendous latent energy. After all, how could a seed become a plant without latent energy? I prefer David Bohm’s thinking. He said that seeds are the apertures through which the plant emerges. (See On Dialogue.) Whether you choose to see latent power in the family system or you see the family system as the aperture through which healthy humans emerge, her work is powerful. (See The New Peoplemaking for more on how we’re supposed to help complete, healthy, well-adjusted people emerge from childhood at every age.)

If you’re interested in untangling a family system that’s a mess or a team at work that just doesn’t seem to work, perhaps you should read The Satir Model.

Book Review-The Change Handbook: The Definitive Resource on Today’s Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systems

I was talking about the change models library. My friend mentioned The Change Handbook: The Definitive Resource on Today’s Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systems as an analog to what I was doing. It’s definitely true that there are similarities, but there are differences as well.

The Methods

The book is built around 61 methods of creating change. Some of these methods I’ve seen fully exposed – like Appreciative Inquiry and Real Time Strategic Change. For the others, semi-structured chapters provided a brief summary that would allow me to evaluate whether the technique was an appropriate tool for the changes that I’m supporting. The structured parts gave applications and limitations and did a good job of providing a reference for comparison even if they couldn’t really be placed in a single table for comparison. (The book tries to do this.)

The largest challenge I have with the methods is that, while some appear to be well documented – like open space technologies – others seem like an approach that consulting companies have developed for their own proprietary use. That means that you’ll have to filter the list to those which are well documented or open source.

In Common

What is common about all the methods is that they’re designed to facilitate or elicit. They’re not execution models. That means that they’re all fundamentally weighted towards the front end of the process of change. There aren’t operating or reinforcing models. Though I’m sure the authors would argue that the improving methods are targeted towards improvement of the process, that doesn’t create an operating model.

To be clear, it’s not that selecting a method from the methods covered won’t help after you’ve kicked off the project. They will help you refine and align. They just fall short of an operating model.

The List

The list of approaches covered are as follows:

  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • Collaborative Loops
  • Dialogue and Deliberation
  • Integrated Clarity (See Nonviolent Communication for a basis.)
  • Open Space Technology
  • Technology of Participation
  • Whole Scale Change
  • The World Café
  • Ancient Wisdom Council
  • Appreciative Inquiry Summit
  • Conference Model
  • Consensus
  • Conversation Café
  • Dynamic Facilitation
  • The Genuine Contact Program
  • Human Systems Dynamics
  • Leadership Dojo
  • Open System Theory Evolutions
  • OpenSpace – Online
  • Organization Workshop
  • PeerSpirit Circling
  • Power of Imagination Studio
  • Real Time Strategic Change
  • SimuReal
  • Study Circles
  • Think Like a Genius
  • Web Lab’s Small Group Dialogues
  • Dynamic Planning Charrettes
  • Future Search
  • Scenario Thinking
  • Search Conference
  • Community Summits
  • Large Group Scenario Planning
  • SOAR
  • Strategic Forum
  • Strategic Visioning
  • 21st Century Town Meeting
  • Community Weaving
  • Participative Design Workshop
  • Collaborative Work System Design
  • Whole-Systems Approach
  • Rapid Results
  • Six Sigma
  • Action Learning
  • Action Review Cycle/AAR
  • Balanced Scorecard
  • Civic Engagement
  • The Cycle of Resolution
  • Employee Engagement
  • Gemeinsinn-Werkstatt (Community Spirit)
  • Idealized Design
  • The Practice of Empowerment
  • Values Into Action
  • WorkOut
  • Online Environments
  • Playback Theatre
  • Visual Recording & Graphic Facilitation
  • Drum Café
  • JazzLab
  • Learning Maps
  • Visual Explorer

Primordial Soup

The best way to describe the impression that The Change Handbook leaves me with is that of a primordial soup. The building blocks are all there. They just need to connect and organize. The methods all have value individually and when used together; however, it feels sort as if the organizing order hasn’t been discovered yet.

When, in 1869, Russian chemistry professor Dmitri Mendeleev published his periodic table, the chemistry world finally had the basic framework for what would become the periodic table of the elements. There was an order to the disorder that we found with the elements. (Mendeleev built on the work of several others, and other variants were published at the same time as Mendeleev’s that were substantially similar, so it’s not like one person created the table in a vacuum.)

I think about The Change Handbook in the same way. I’m looking forward to achieving a better framework on which each of these models can hang. Maybe if you read The Change Handbook, you can discover it.

Book Review-Focused, Fast, and Flexible: Creating Agility Advantage in a VUCA World

Finding a way to navigate our ever-changing world is challenging to say the least. We live in unprecedented times of change. We’re facing more competition from across the globe and individual entrepreneurs who are leveraging the latest cloud and artificial intelligence options to compete with organizations of every size. To compete in today’s world, we need something like Focused, Fast, and Flexible: Creating Agility Advantage in a VUCA World.

The Argument for Change

Very few people will argue against an increasing rate of change. Even if we look at it from a content production perspective, we had to scribe everything until Gutenberg’s printing press in 1450. We started building more replicable content with the invention of the typewriter in 1870. By the 1960s, we kicked off a series of innovations decade by decade that transformed the way we communicate: the copier, the computer, the personal computer, the networking of computers, the internet, digital photography, and digital video. High speed internet access has allowed us to be educated at a distance and communicate in ways that could have not been conceived of in our grandparents’ lifetimes.

Every indication is that change is increasing in its intensity, and it’s become relentless, driving everyone to continuous change whether they like it or not. That’s why we need to develop strategies to increase our agility individually and as organizations.


It starts with finding focus. We’re distracted by thousands of advertisements every day. We are drawn to the thoughts that marketers want us to have instead of the relatively self-directed thinking of the past. (See The Hidden Persuaders for more.) For us to be effective in this world of change, we must figure out what is important – and what can be ignored.

When we’re not able to focus – or articulate our focus – people flounder or stop. They freeze because they lack the confidence to move forward. This is how creating a sense of focus allows us to move forward. If you consider that as much as 40 percent of employee work is discretionary, it’s no wonder that we need to ensure they’re focused on the right things.


Iterative cycles are an important part of learning and adapting (see Systems Thinking). The cycles that Focused, Fast, and Flexible recommends are OODA and LOOP. Both originate with Colonel John Boyd, a former Air Force pilot. “OODA” stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. “LOOP” is Locating, Orienting, Operating, Perpetuating. OODA is similar to the model that Deming recommended – Plan, Do, Study, Act (sometimes known as Plan, Do, Check, Act). LOOP is a more traditional change approach with the need to become open to the change, perform the change, and reinforce the change.

Together, these two models drive continuous improvement and anchor improvements in the organization.


Personally and organizationally, happiness is, as Gandhi says, “when you think, what you say, and what you do are all in harmony.” This requires focus in a way that’s consistent over time and clear to everyone involved. The great trick in leadership is balancing the need for direction, focus, vision, and structure with the ability to create an environment that allows individuals to bring their own creativity to the environment.

Reading Focused, Fast, and Flexible may not lead you to your own sense of harmony, but it might just be a good start.

Book Review-Cynefin: Weaving Sense-Making into the Fabric of Our World

It was years ago in the subterranean conference center of a hotel in Washington, DC when I met Dave Snowden. He had a keynote speaking slot as well as a workshop. I had some breakout session that I had managed to get. I was speaking with a friend when I used the word “curmudgeon” to refer to my office manager, and I could visibly see Dave’s ears perk up at the next table. I convinced him to have a conversation with me the next day and via Skype some months later.

When I met Dave, he told me he had no intention of writing a book. That’s why when I saw the book Cynefin: Weaving Sense-Making into the Fabric of Our World, I was confused. As it turns out, Dave’s friends had finally persuaded him to write a book – or at least a few chapters, with them filling in the rest. The book is as interesting as the framework and Dave himself.

The Curmudgeon

Among those who know him, Dave has the reputation of being a curmudgeon – a label that he embraces. Thus why his ears perked up when I used the word. Rarely does the word come up in everyday conversation, so it must have been like I was calling his name.

I got a chance to watch Dave in action for a few minutes in his workshop. He was practicing ritualized dissent. It’s one of many tools that he teaches to help people make sense of their world. It was the first time that I had seen the technique that I would summarily describe as being the devil’s advocate.

Knowledge Management

“While KM [Knowledge Management] is more or less dead strategically (although the practices remain)” is an odd statement for a man that helped to create it – but it’s a statement that I can understand him making. The conference that we met at was a KM World conference, and each year I’d leave it thinking about how lifeless it felt. There are some truly interesting and amazing people that go, and there’s the steady influx of new knowledge managers who are looking to learn the craft. In the mix, it’s easy to become frustrated and disillusioned.

Where knowledge management was once seen as a strategic objective, it’s now buried in other strategic initiatives. Whether the initiative is agile or innovation or resilience, knowledge management no longer gets top-line attention from the executive suite of major organizations. It’s now an enabling skillset that drives other strategic initiatives.

That doesn’t make the skills any less important, it only makes them more expected. The last time that knowledge management made Bain and Company’s top 25 tools was 2011. Its removal from the list in 2013 prompted, in part, my work in Ark’s book, Unlocking Value: Knowledge Management as a Strategic Management Tool. All the authors wanted to convey the value that knowledge management still had as a strategic tool.

Conflict and Paradox

Proverbs 27:17 reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” It’s ancient wisdom that is often forgotten in a world focused on harmony and keeping everyone happy. We’ve decided that conflict itself is the enemy. Instead of finding places where conflict sharpens our thinking, we’ve become threatened when there are disagreements.

We’ve even found ways to root out our own internal conflicts, the paradoxes that we hold inside our minds but can’t seem to solve have been swept to the back by our business and our beliefs that there must be an answer. However, we can’t let go of the paradoxes. We must embrace the land between the ideas. (See Fractal Along the Edges for more on these in-between spaces.

Chronos and Kairos

We cannot escape time. It flows past us moment by moment. This kind of time is chronos. It is metered and measured. However, there’s another kind of time – kairos – or the right time. It’s timing, and it’s accepting the timing that comes automatically. It’s rhythmic and right. It’s not forced but embodied in the idea that we’re living in the moment.

When dealing with complex adaptive systems – complex items – our best hope is that we can find the opportune time when the system is willing and able to change if we give it a little nudge – and if we’re brave enough to provide that nudge. Sometimes, systems can respond like falling dominos that are suddenly headed off in the right direction.

Data First, or Framework First

Snowden believes that you should teach by first providing some data then providing the framework later. It’s true that we grasp the abstract (framework) by means of the concrete (experiences or data). At the same time, it’s equally true that without a framework to hang the data on, we may ignore it or process it in incorrect ways.

This is a place where the answer seems to be not one or the other but iterative. Some advocate providing frameworks first then providing the data to support it. Others, like Snowden, are focused on data, then frameworks.

This false dichotomy fails to recognize the iterative nature of learning, and that you need to place a toe in the water of data to see the framework and a toe in the water of framework to better process and therefore remember and leverage data.

So, while I appreciate Snowden’s thinking on delivering data first, it’s important to think of this as an iterative process rather than a single direction, one-time flow.

Finding the Inherent Simplicity

Cynefin is designed to illuminate how systems are working and the kinds of responses and inquiries into the systems that are operating that may be fruitful. No matter where we are in the cynefin map, we must remain focused on finding the inherent simplicity of the situation. We cannot force simplicity upon the system – lest we run afoul of The Black Swan. Instead, we must seek to find the simplicity that exists under the currents of the outward manifestations of the system.

It’s not that finding this simplicity is easy or that the novice would even say it’s simple. (See Seeing What Others Don’t for more.) However, it is possible.

Cynefin is, like its caretaker/creator, a concept of wholeness and connectedness. If you’re looking to integrate your thinking about different kinds of changes and decisions, maybe reading Cynefin is the next right answer.

Book Review-Organization Change: Theory and Practice

Many people have tried to understand and share their understanding about how organizations change. Some of these are scholarly enough to refer to studies and research to back up their claims. Rarely, however, do I find such well researched work that looks beyond the common quoting of historical research to find new meaning in old works – or to restore the original insights that have been washed away. Organization Change: Theory and Practice is a work that is rare among peers in that it is well researched.

The Hawthorne Effect

The research performed at the Hawthorne Works outside of Chicago is well cited as an indication that you get impact by researching folks. It might also be called the observer effect – people will do more when they know they’re being watched. Beyond the lighting experiment that is so often quoted there’s something else that was happening. It’s something that seemed lost in all the hoopla.

The Observer Effect

Plenty of folks have shared pithy quotes that are similar to Peter Drucker’s “You get what you measure.” This certainly seems true of the research at the Hawthorne Works. They turned the lights up, and they got better performance. They turned the lights down, and they got better performance. It doesn’t make sense that the result you get improves no matter which direction you move the independent variable. That is unless you recognize that the change wasn’t the lighting – the change was that they were being watched.

If you recognize that people knew they were being watched, you can attribute the performance to the fact that they were being watched. You can even extend that the focused energies on improving performance made a lasting change as they looked for ways to improve their performance that stuck after the lighting was changed.

Management and the Worker

What is often missed is that the studies of productivity and optimal working environments didn’t end with the lighting experiments – they began there. They set up numerous test rooms – isolated pockets where they could test other ideas. These ideas led to some of the earliest documentation that the relationship between management and the worker – and among the workers themselves – was critical to effective functioning. (See Management and the Worker for more.) The model that workers are cogs in a machine just didn’t work when they started testing ideas for how to make things more effective.

Who is Training Whom?

Taylorism wasn’t dead. Despite the fact that a major hole was punched in the way that people were supposed to behave versus how they actually behaved, Taylorism continued. One of the reasons may have been Taylor’s perspective that training the management is far harder than training the worker. In effect, Taylor saw that the workers were malleable enough to change where managers seemed to be resistant. This may have been due to their inflated egos (see Humilitas for more). It may also have been because they were on the leading edge of what Richard Florida would call The Rise of the Creative Class. In either case, the workers at Hawthorne Works found ways to adjust their behaviors to train the managers as much as the managers controlled them.

Complimentary to the Machine

The work at Hawthorne Works connects to the work of Toyota in Japan. They learned that they could make looms that notified the operator when a thread broke, thereby preventing poor output and signaling to the operator that their attention was needed. The Taylorism model finally died out as the Toyota Production System began to unwind the assumptions that were made in the Industrial Revolution about how to best manage things. (See Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management for more.)

The fundamental shift in thinking is that workers are not a part of the machine – but they’re complementary to it. The role the workers play is different than the machine, and the role the machines play are different than the worker. They’re complementary – not competitive.

Laws of Nature and Society

“The laws of nature are not the same as the laws of society; the latter can be broken, the former cannot.” In The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt explains the difference between moral imperatives and social conventions. It’s a way to make sense of how the Jesuits navigated foreign worlds and how our perspectives have changed. (See Heroic Leadership for more on the Jesuits.)

Burke is drawing distinctions about the difference between a molecular reaction and the higher-forms like cells and, particularly, humans that make choices about how they interact – and how this may temper the wisdom of an organic model to change.

The challenge that I’d offer is that as much as we’d like to believe that if we put the right molecules together, they’ll eventually complete a chemical reaction, we ignore the fact that we’re dealing with the law of large numbers. (See The Organized Mind, The Black Swan, and The Theory of the Growth of the Firm for more.) There are some molecules that refuse to convert, but because most of them do and because we’re dealing with such large quantities, it appears as if they all do.

Similarly, cells behave in predictable, repeatable ways when you evaluate them in large quantities. As any scientist or statistician knows, the smaller the sample size, the greater the degree of error. (See How to Measure Anything for a pragmatic approach to managing the confidence factors.) When we’re working with humans, we’re generally dealing with much smaller quantities than when we’re thinking of molecules or cells.

Punctuated Equilibrium

Much is made of Darwin’s discovery of evolution, but little is made of the understanding that things are not so gradual as they appear to be. We forget that it’s all about random chance, and sometimes the conditions will just come up to create a rapid change. (See The Evolution of Cooperation for modeling of evolution.) It was Steven Jay Gould who focused our attention on the “punctuated equilibrium” concept, where things remain in a relatively steady state for a long time before something changes – and sometimes changes dramatically.

In our organizational change projects, the question becomes whether the weight of the need to change will overcome the forces that maintain the status quo. Are we in a period of change, or are we in a period of relative stability? Obviously, for the change manager or leader, the goal is to drive things to a moment of inflection – without pushing too far.

Good Science and Bad Action

Good science – the kind created by solid research – may not always be what we need. The constraints of being able to isolate variables too often makes the results of the research and the science it creates unusable in a real world. At Hawthorne Works, they did their very best to isolate all the variables only to be confounded with the truth that all humans are variables.

As we’ve endeavored to create good science around organizational change, we’ve found that our efforts continue to be thwarted because people get in the way. The results are more experiments, more research, and very little usable progress on the kinds of things that real businesses with struggle with every day. The simplistic models that assume predictable behavior from human beings is flawed.

Change as Cognitive Restructuring

Change starts when we think about things differently. Lewin knew that we had to change our mindsets first – to unfreeze. (See Lewin’s model.) Those who deal with persistent personal change know the first thing that must change is the way someone thinks about the problem. (See Change or Die for more.) All change is therefore either just cognitive restructuring or at the very least starts with reorganizing our thinking about the change.

If you “must” do something, then you can’t change it. If a 4-minute mile cannot be run by a human, then it will be nine years before someone has the capacity to do it. (See The Rise of Superman for more.) After the 4-minute mile was possible, it only took 2 months for someone else to do it. It was all about the way of thinking about the time.

Espoused Theory and Theory of Action

During the nine years when no one could break the 4-minute mile barrier, if you would have asked runners, they would have said they were trying to break the barrier, but some part of them was not. Some part of them was scared at the prospect of actually breaking the barrier – and falling over dead, as was thought would happen at the time. There was a gap between what people were saying they were going to do and what they were actually doing. Immunity to Change encourages us to look for places where our actions aren’t matching what we say we want to do. Burke highlights this situation as a problem in change.

You may get people to outwardly agree that the change is necessary, but somewhere inside, they’ve not fully committed, and that lack of commitment shows up in ways that can’t be predicted.

Finding Assumptions by Looking for Their Shadow

On a sunny day, I’m looking for a parking spot. There are large SUVs and tiny Mini Coopers interspersed, and I’m trying to figure out which spots might be empty and which might contain a smaller car. The solution is to look for the shadows. While I can’t see the car itself, I can often see the shadow it casts on the pavement. No shadow? No car. It’s a hack for finding the empty spot – and avoiding those false starts.

Similarly, when we’re looking for the gap in espoused theory and theory of action, we can look for those things that should never happen if the espoused theory is the theory in action. Where we see them, we know that there’s an internal conflict that’s not been fully resolved.

The Model

Burke and a colleague, Litwin, developed a change model that identifies a series of factors and their interrelatedness. The factors of the model are:

  • External Environment
  • Leadership
  • Mission and Strategy
  • Culture
  • Management Practices
  • Structure
  • Systems
  • Work Unit Climate
  • Skills/Job Match
  • Motivation
  • Individual Needs and Values
  • Performance

It’s explained that these factors interrelate, with each one exerting force on the others. For a full analysis, see my summary of the Burke-Litwin model. For now, maybe it’s time to pick up Organization Change and see for yourself how the various aspects of organizational change are related to one another.

Article: Leading Through Traumatic Change

When we, as leaders, first realized that Covid-19 was going to impact the world in profound ways, we focused our attention on the tactical needs of enabling remote workforces and ensuring that we could protect those we lead while they’re working either from home or in-person, as necessary. As the pandemic has continued, we’ve begun to recognize the long-term effects and trauma that this event has caused us all. When we recognize that some changes are traumatic, we can begin to support those we lead in ways that support their mental health as well as their physical well-being.

From’s Leadership Excellence April 2021 edition. Read more:

Book Review-The Hard and Soft Sides of Change Management: Tools for Managing Process and People

There’s a great struggle between those who want to manage the project of change and those who want to make sure that everyone feels okay with the change. It’s a struggle that’s often obscured by the structure of the organization and the change process. If the project management office leads the change, then the “hard” side of change is often emphasized with tasks, dates, and budgets. If the change management or human resources department leads the change, then it often is focused on employee engagement and feelings, with the project details being an afterthought. Kathryn Zukof’s The Hard and Soft Sides of Change Management: Tools for Managing Process and People shows you how to balance and integrate these two essential aspects of the change management process.

Overlooking Loss

The most common cause of change management failure is the failure to recognize the loss that people feel. We still assume that “business is business” and we shouldn’t be emotional or experience loss. This is the illusion: that we make rational decisions and business is about those rational decisions. The Happiness Hypothesis and Switch share Jonathan Haidt’s model of the rational rider sitting on an emotional elephant and the realization that the elephant is really in control. As Dan Ariely points out in Predictably Irrational, we don’t make rational decisions.

We grieve loss. The Grief Recovery Handbook explains that grief is the natural emotion that follows loss – any kind of loss. William Bridges in Managing Transitions explains that every change will trigger some degree of loss, even if it is a nostalgic loss for the way that things used to be.

Leaders look at the net positive outcome and fail to recognize that in the benefits there are also losses. As I’m looking at giving away our eldest daughter to marriage at some point, I’m poignantly aware that, as much as her getting married is a good thing (we like our future son-in-law), there is a loss. Our daughter will no longer be “our little one” in the same way that she was.

Kurt Lewin first started working with the concept of force fields. (Which I discuss in my blog post, The Behavior Function.) The idea is that every behavior has forces that drive it and those that inhibit it. What I’ve learned from working with those in recovery is that “you’re only as sick as your secrets.” That is because anything you fail to acknowledge gets larger. (See Neurodharma for more on this topic.) When leaders fail to recognize the loss that exists in change, they make that force larger – sometimes larger than the forces compelling the change forward.

Converting the Detractors

In the Christian faith, the most prolific author of the Bible is Paul. However, that wasn’t his given name. His given name was Saul, and he had a conversion experience on his way to Damascus. A persecutor of Christians was converted into a powerful advocate. While we may not have the supernatural power to blind someone to encourage their conversion, there are things we can do to encourage that even our most ardent detractors become our greatest champions. If you prefer an Eastern approach, Sun Tzu in The Art of War said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Zukof recommends a “red team,” or a team that’s designed specifically to look for flaws in a change management plan. It’s a time-honored approach to ensuring that we don’t get too sold on our own ideas. The origins might be found in the idea of a “devil’s advocate” instituted in the Roman Catholic Church to identify flaws in those who were being considered for sainthood.

Red teams are great way to catalog, identify, and mitigate the risks associated with a change. Having detractors on the team validates that they’re heard and that their concerns are being addressed. This, in turn, typically makes them appreciate the change more positively.


I don’t believe in change resistance as such. I think that there are those who are experiencing losses, which we may perceive as resistant. The losses may be objectively real or just the psychological losses like the loss of nostalgia. In acknowledging and recognizing those losses – and attempting to compensate where appropriate – we minimize their effects and reduce the perceived resistance.

The loss may even be just a perceived loss due to a lack of understanding about the change, where communication and dialogue can resolve things such that the individual doesn’t perceive that they will lose as much or their probability of great loss is smaller. The next effect of which is the evaporation of the perceived resistance.

There’s an alternative form of resistance that I’d categorize as conflict. In this case, the person understands but disagrees with the change. They either see things differently (they have a different perspective), or they value things differently. (If you’re looking for tips on resolving conflict, you can sign up for a short email series here.) This form of resistance may result in a form of subversion.


Chris Argyris in Organizational Traps describes a prototypical problem where users would agree in public and quietly go to sympathetic ears to complain. They’d use active and passive forms of subversion to prevent the thing that the members of the meeting publicly agreed or acquiesced to. In its passive form, the members of the meeting would simply fail to do work in the direction of the agreement. It doesn’t feel like rebellion if you simply take no action. The active form, where the person actively works against the public decision or agreement is much less common but is still a real concern for organizations.

Amy Edmondson provided one solution to the problem in The Fearless Organization: helping everyone have the psychological safety necessary to speak up in the meetings about their disagreements instead of quietly taking them on and using them as a reason to block the effort. Immunity to Change recommends the back-end evaluation where you monitor for behaviors that don’t match the stated commitments and ask the question why.

Subversion in any form erodes trust, which is essential for the change, the organization, and society, as Trust: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order explains.

Building Trust

In A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s character Col. Nathan Jessup exclaims, “You can’t handle the truth.” We seem to think that people can handle the truth much less frequently than they actually can. Kim Scott in Radical Candor addresses the typical objection that the truth can hurt by answering that it’s clear not cruel. We should not confuse secondary benefits with the reason why we’re doing something. When we’re not honest in our communications with employees, they know it, and as a result, they’ll lose faith in our willingness to communicate clearly.

Trust is created in three forms: contractual, communication, and competence. By failing to communicate the real reasons that we’re doing something, we’re violating communication trust, and it will make people appropriately wonder whether they can believe us or not. (See Trust => Vulnerability => Intimacy, Revisited for more on this critical topic.)

Rewarding Problem Resolution

I learned that it’s not whether a problem happened or not that determined whether something was good or bad. What really matters more than anything is how people responded when a problem did happen. How did they handle it? Did they take responsibility for it all, like Johnson & Johnson did with the Tylenol tampering issues of 1982? Or did they choose a different path, along the lines of those explained in Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)? The difference is critical. It may seem counter intuitive to reward people who made a mistake in your organization or your change; however, if they responded extemporarily, a reward may be appropriate.

The truth is that we’ll all face challenges – some of them we’ll create ourselves. It’s not the mistakes that define us but how we address them. It won’t be a mistake to read The Hard and Soft Sides of Change Management to see how you can handle the challenges that you face in your change better.

Book Review-Change Intelligence: Using the Power of CQ to Lead Change That Sticks

That there are different kinds of intelligence is not a new thought. Barbara Trautlein wants you to know about change intelligence and why it’s important.

Multiple Intelligences

Before we can get to the idea that some folks may be predisposed to a certain kind of intelligence, we’ve got to go back to Howard Gardner, who first proposed the idea. In short, the idea is that we can be very intelligent in one way but not another. This led to a branch of thinking about whether emotional intelligence might be one of them. Daniel Goleman wrote a book titled Emotional Intelligence, which was very popular and brought the idea to people’s attention. Others have picked up on Goleman’s work, including Travis Bradbury and Jean Graves, who wrote Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Others have found ways to explore other kinds of intelligence, including Conversational Intelligence. There are others who use intelligence in their title – like Collaborative Intelligence – but don’t mean it in quite the same way.


One of the conventions that happened is intelligence quotient began being abbreviated as IQ, and therefore emotional intelligence became EQ and Trautlein’s change intelligence became CQ. While IQ has a scale and a measurement with it, neither EQ nor CQ have a scale. (Interestingly, our collective average IQ keeps going up according to the Flynn Effect, as explained in Range.)

EQ has either five or four key components depending on which variation of the work you are focused on. These components, however, do not have specific set of objective metrics. They’re guidelines for ways to improve. While some have developed assessments around EQ, there isn’t one standard way to measure it.

Trautlein’s CQ is different still, having three areas of focus or interest: head, hand, heart. In her assessment, you’re given forced-choice questions that ultimately lead you to choosing one for the various scenarios that you’re presented. The relationship between these three places you into one of seven categories, including the “pure” single-attribute versions, the “mixed” two-attribute versions, and the single three-attribute version. The graphic that she uses is:

Because of the forced-ranking nature of the test, there’s no improvement in capabilities in each of these areas, just a pull in one direction or another.

Personality Testing

There’s a great deal of interest in psychological typing systems, as explained in The Cult of Personality Testing. I’ve reviewed several books about different personality profiling systems, including Personality Types, The Normal Personality, Fascinate, and Strengths Finder. I cautiously advocate the use of these personality profiles because of the “Barnum effect.” The short version is that people tend to identify with profiles and horoscopes more than they should given their non-specific nature. (See Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology for more.)

Despite the tendency to apply more weight than is deserved, they can serve as a useful window to discover more about yourself. That’s why we suggest that people consider doing a few of them and seeing how it exposes aspects of their personality that they may not have been aware of in our Extinguish Burnout materials.


Beyond Trautlein’s assessment model, there is a keen awareness of some of the dynamics that affect corporate life. She describes the three layers of change – executives, management, and workers – in a way that is strikingly similar to the way they’re described in Seeing Systems. Each part of the organization sees itself as acting rationally and can’t understand why those around them are acting so oddly.

Executives wonder why the managers and workers aren’t implementing their beautiful strategies. Workers are wondering how the executives could have conceived of such an ill-informed strategy that doesn’t match the way things really work. The managers are stuck in the middle trying to figure out how to get more compliance with the strategies without alienating the workers and how to tell the executives that their strategies aren’t grounded in reality.

Planning Now

General Patton’s rule, “A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future,” is a good way to express the need to be done. It’s the mantra of satisficers everywhere who recognize that there isn’t time for perfect. (See The Paradox of Choice for more.) Too often, we believe that we can plan sufficiently to identify every condition and handle every case. However, as Colonel Tom Kolditz, the head of the behavioral sciences division at West Point, says, “The trite expression we always use is ‘No plan survives contact with the enemy.'” (See Made to Stick for more.)

In other words, do enough planning to generate value and then try to use it so you can learn what works – and what doesn’t.


There is one emotion that derails change most, and it is fear. We’re afraid of the present, we’re afraid of the transition. We’re afraid of failing and afraid of succeeding. People are afraid of what the future holds and of remaining the same.

Too often, change leaders fail to recognize the power of fear. More importantly, they fail to recognize how easy it is for people to become fearful. Fear is more prevalent and powerful than any of us would like to believe. However, you shouldn’t be afraid to read Change Intelligence.

Book Review-Change Management: The Essentials

It’s hard to figure out what you need to know for change management. It’s such a big profession with so many overlapping definitions that it’s hard to sort out what might be the essentials. That’s what makes Change Management: The Essentials such a difficult thing to pull off. Lena Ross doesn’t score a perfect 10 for this work – but it’s a good way to get oriented quickly if you’d like.

Will and Skill

Change management requires both will and skill. You can’t easily teach will. Will is the grit and tenacity that it takes to succeed in difficult situations. (See Grit for more on what grit is.) However, as Willpower explains, willpower can be developed over time. By testing and retesting our will – and persevering through challenges – we grow stronger. (See Antifragile for more.) C.R. Snyder in The Psychology of Hope explains that hope has two components: willpower and waypower. Waypower is the ability to get things done.

In other words, waypower is having the skills you need to accomplish your goals. It’s “know-how.” What Change Management: The Essentials is trying to do is to start you on the path of learning the skills so that you can see how you can be successful with your change project.

The Missteps

Anyone who is going to become good at change must accept that they’re going to make some mistakes. They’ll have a few missteps. Ross has a few in her book as well. The first is that she incorrectly states that there’s no evidence that Lewin conceived of change as three steps. The truth is that it’s mentioned in “Frontiers in Group Dynamics: Concept, Method and Reality in Social Science; Social Equilibria and Social Change,” which is in the inaugural volume of Human Relations.

The other misstep is subtle. Ross says that the change practitioner isn’t responsible for delivering the business benefits of the change. At some level, this is correct. The business leader is responsible for the business. However, at another level, it’s not correct, because it places the change practitioner outside the responsibility for success. Instead of being in the boat rowing with the business, they’re on the shore shouting at them to do better. The best change practitioners accept co-responsibility with the business in delivering the results.

A slightly better phrasing might have been that the change practitioner won’t be held accountable for the results. That’s true. The business leader has ultimate accountability for the performance of their group. (If you’re struggling with the difference between accountability and responsibility, see Understanding RACI Conditions.)

Finally, Ross explains that Asch’s conformity experiments are about elevators – the truth is that Asch’s experiments were about line length. The elevator experiments were a Candid Camera stunt and didn’t have the kind of scientific rigor that Asch’s original experiments had. (For more about his experiments and more, see The Necessity of Neuroscience.)

The Myths

Ross also relates a set of 5 “myths” – the first three of which are not and the remaining two are only partially untrue:

  1. 70% of Change of Change Efforts Fail – See Why the 70% Failure Rate of Change Projects is Probably Right.
  2. People Naturally Resist Change – See William Bridges’ book, Managing Transitions, for more about why people do have a natural predisposition to resist change – and why it’s limited.
  3. Change Managers are Change Leaders – Here, I’d argue that good change managers are change leaders. There’s a lot of confusion in the difference between managers and leaders. Leadership in the Twenty-First Century is a good place to start to detangle the two terms.
  4. Change Management is Dead – This is bandied about for every profession. Change management is transforming and the old way of thinking about it may be dead. It’s becoming an essential skill for every manager and leader rather than a separate skill set and role.
  5. Change Management is Just Communications and Training – It is communications and training – and a whole lot more. However, these are two key skills that are often lacking in the people being asked to execute change.

Imperfect Solutions

Ross explains that she learned that imperfect artifacts are okay. Over time, I’ve learned to value imperfect solutions of all types, from the artifact that isn’t perfect but is good enough to the solution that still requires human intervention at times. The Paradox of Choice explains that maximizers – those that must get to perfect – are less happy and less effective than those who do just enough. Those who do just enough are called satisficers.

The tricky distinction here is discovering what’s enough. What’s a good enough artifact to be effective? The answer varies, but the good news is that you can openly discuss what level of perfection will be required for artifacts – at least, if there’s enough psychological safety. (For more on psychological safety, see The Fearless Organization.)

Principles Not Formulas

Ross also quotes Richard Feynman and says to “teach principles, not formulas.” This is quite right in that you want to raise the bar for what you’re doing. As Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues explained, there’s a hierarchy of educational objectives, and recall is at the bottom. Higher up is the ability to apply knowledge and even further still is the synthesis of new knowledge. (See Efficiency in Learning for more about learning concepts.)

The counterbalance to this is that we “grasp the concrete by means of the abstract.” (See Pervasive Information Architecture for the reference.) In other words, we learn from examples and stories and then we are taught how to see the generic principles that exist in these examples. Wired for Story explains how we’ve evolved with stories and how we need them to anchor our thinking.

In the end, if we want a practical start to change management, then Change Management: The Essentials is a good read.