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-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.

Book Review-Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management: Special 100th Birthday Edition

Lots of people speak about the Toyota Production System or lean manufacturing, but few have taken the time to look at what the originator has to say about it. Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management: Special 100th Birthday Edition is his writing about the development of the system, including the thinking that led to its development.

In the manufacturing world, what Toyota did was unprecedented. They changed the way that automobile manufacturing worked so that a small company could compete with the much larger – and initially more efficient – auto manufacturers in the United States.

Talk to the Gemba (and Write it Down)

The Gemba are the people that do the work. The Gemba is the workplace itself. When one says talk to the Gemba, they’re saying go to the place of the greatest knowledge about what is actually happening and learn from them. Don’t make guesses. Don’t believe that you know better. Simply ask them and stop to listen to what they say. Then write down what they say, so you don’t forget, and you won’t have to ask them again.

This is very different than the way things used to work. It used to be that management would decide they knew what needed to happen better than the people who were actually doing the work – and frequently they were wrong. Being wrong only created frustration and animosity between the workers and management.

Only What You Need

Manufacturing is used to the idea that you can produce more if you keep producing the same thing continuously for long periods of time. The typical response to this was to run very long runs of things. You’d run well more than what you really needed, because it seemed to be efficient. The problem is that this created inventory of unfinished goods that would need to be held and managed. It’s called inventory carrying cost – and it can be a real problem for some organizations.

The mentality of optimizing the current operation – the current thing that’s being manufactured – whether or not it can be sold in a reasonable amount of time is problematic for the overall profitability of the organization. However, to be able to be more agile and produce different things in the right quantities requires addressing a keystone problem.

Quick Changeover

In most manufacturing scenarios, changing over a line from producing one thing to another thing takes time – a lot of time. While machines can be optimized to keep running whatever they’re making, the process of changing from one product to another is seen as wasted time. After all, there’s no production during the changeover. With changeovers running into the hours (or, in extreme cases, days), it’s easy to see why there is a reluctance to change to the next thing.

To enable the production of the right amount of parts at the right time, you’ve got to get good at changeovers – like minutes good. This change in the fundamental dynamics of the manufacturing process enabled the move to producing only what was needed when it was needed. Suddenly, the inventory carrying cost for what you didn’t need was much larger than the cost of making the changeover at the right time.

Just in Time

If you further reduce your need to store and move things, you can gain further efficiencies in the manufacturing process. What if all the parts that you needed to assemble something showed up minutes before you needed them instead of months? You’d have fewer materials to warehouse, and you’d spend less time moving them around to keep out of the way of your current operation. The net effect is better efficiency, but it requires another keystone change.

Getting internal and external providers aligned so that they provide just the right amount of parts at the right time is an artful dance. It’s a dance that, when done well, reaps great rewards. Instead of planning monthly receipts of parts, you expect daily, and as a result you need roughly 1/30th the storage.

This paved the way to another innovation: vendor managed inventory. In this scenario, vendors are engaged to restock warehouses and stores of their customers. They bill the customers for the new products they provide, and the customer is freed from the concern of managing enough stock. It requires a level of communication and trust, but the result is fewer supply chain oscillations and better overall efficiency.

Work and Activity

The key learning that is at the heart of lean manufacturing is removing activities and aspects that don’t add value to the consumer. Even the most diligent worker who is focused on the wrong thing adds no value to the end product. Ohno was clear that people routinely confuse working with producing valuable work.

He was confronted with the fact that United States workers were nine times more productive than their Japanese counterparts. The reasons for this were many, but none of them were because the Americans were working harder. It was about how the labor was being used and how focused the labor was on productive items.

Automation with Human Element Added

I spent my high school years in Michigan, and I can remember touring the GM plant in Saginaw, MI as a part of some school field trip. One of the things that was the most confusing at the time was when our tour guide pointed over to a man sitting at a table reading a newspaper and said, “That’s the most productive guy in the plant.” It didn’t make sense to me that the guy doing no work was the most productive guy. Maybe he was on a break. The guide explained that he was reading a newspaper, because all the machines that he was supervising were running efficiently. If a machine stopped, he’d jump up and fix it.

It seems somewhat wasteful to have an employee reading a newspaper. However, when you look at it from the point of view that the machines are doing the work – they’re automated – and there is a human element added to fix problems, it starts to make more sense.

The innovation, which came from the fabric-making business, was to create machines that stopped when there was a problem so that someone could fix them rather than creating defective product. Defective product necessarily costs the organization money and therefore efficiency. Creating systems that have humans fixing problems is an ingenious way to improve efficiency – but not as much as separating human time from cycle time.

Human vs. Cycle Time

Nine women cannot have one baby in a month. It’s a fundamental problem of throughput and bandwidth: nine women can have nine babies in nine months, but one baby in one month isn’t possible, because gestation takes nine months. A similar misconception occurs around the amount of time that it takes for a part cycle to complete and how much of that time must be tended to by a human. Consider a process that takes 10 minutes. Of that, one minute is setup, and one minute is removing the part from the machine. In this scenario, only 2 minutes require human intervention, even though the cycle time of parts is 10 minutes.

To maximize efficiency, you’d put one person between five machines, cycling through them sequentially setting up and removing parts. You might only get 90% efficiency from each machine, because the machine is waiting for the human – but, conversely, the overall output of the human will increase almost five-fold. Over time, this matters, because humans and raw materials are invariably the most expensive parts of the manufacturing process. While machines are capital intensive and seem like large costs at the beginning, over time, their relative cost is minor.

Quality Built into the Process

As I mentioned earlier, defective products necessarily reduce profitability and therefore efficiency. Reducing defects is a goal of most manufacturing environments. However, there’s a secondary goal of discovering defects sooner. The closer that you discover a defect to its creation, the less cost that the defect has to the organization. If a hole is misaligned, it’s easy enough to scrap the part and melt it down or whatever. If the part goes through ten more operations before needing the be scrapped, its cost is much larger – perhaps ten times as large.

Rather than having a separate quality department that checks items after they’re done, everyone in the plant becomes focused on making sure the products are right. This shift, while simple to state, is difficult to get everyone to embody. However, it means fewer defects – due to the attention – and less costly defects, as they are discovered and resolved sooner.

Fat vs. Muscle

One of the most common ways that I’ve personally observed lean manufacturing (and other variants of lean) being misused is to cut the muscle instead of the fat. Because of market or internal pressures, the organization too aggressively pursues the removal of cost from a process and the result is that instead of removing fat, you begin to remove the very muscle that makes the system work.

Too often, I’ve seen transformation experts blunder into a process without a thorough understanding of the overall picture. As a result, they remove key activities that reduce costs throughout the process, because, on paper, the costs look large in the beginning.

Ohno was clear that accounting games and the ways that you view the process can distort the results and can take a system that’s capable of great benefit and create great harm.

Must Teach

In Ohno’s view, every supervisor must be able to teach. Here, he’s primarily referring to the capacity to teach the line workers how to do their job efficiently, but I believe there’s a greater obligation to teach managers what it’s really like to be on the line doing the production work.

There’s no optionality to Ohno’s view on this subject. In fact, he states that he never gets upset with line workers – only supervisors and managers. He’s upset, because they’re not teaching or supporting the front line workers appropriately.

Desirable Difficulty

One of the hardest things for me to learn in developing training systems is that the best way to ensure students will remember what they’re taught is to get the level of difficulty right. Too difficult, and the student will give up. Too easy, and they won’t retain their learning.

Ohno instinctively knew this as well, and he encouraged the right amount of difficulty by challenging line workers to test their knowledge of how things worked with Ohno through experimentation. He made it uncomfortable to disagree with him but acceptable to do so – as long as people were willing to back it up by developing proof.

Black Swans and Over Optimization

The positive impact of Taiichi Ohno and the Toyota Production System should not be overstated. However, it’s important to recognize Nicholas Taleb’s counterbalancing argument from The Black Swan. We must be careful to not over optimize a system so that there’s no resiliency. We should eliminate as much waste as possible while recognizing that some waste is necessary. One of the early criticisms of the TPS approach was the impact when parts didn’t arrive on time. If the parts were missing, it would stop the line, and that would be a big cost.

However, Ohno, in alignment of desirable difficulty, contended that this would encourage work to ensure that it never happened – or, when it happened, that it wouldn’t be repeated. Ohno expected black swans in a way that many of his followers missed. Still, he admits that there were difficult times for Toyota, and the approaches he used still needed refinement. That’s perhaps one of the best things about and a reason to study Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management.

Book Review-Lean Change Management: Innovative Practices for Managing Organizational Change

Agile software development becomes lean development and lean startups, and sometimes the folks who grew up in software development transition into organizational change. They bring with them ideas from software development and information technology in general to attempt to make organizational change easier. That’s what Lean Change Management: Innovative Practices for Managing Organizational Change is. It’s a guide to organizational change management from someone who grew up in software development and agile approaches.

Satir Change Model

Jason Little views change from the lens of the Virginia Satir model, which is the model he was introduced to organizational change with. The model consists of a status quo (called the late status quo) interrupted by a foreign element, which is met with resistance and chaos, until a transforming idea allows for integration and a new status quo. The model grew from Satir’s work with helping individuals change.

Little recounts his introduction as being elected as the person who resisted the change and was eventually persuaded to move to the new status quo by some crafty people who were trying to make the new status quo a reality – and who knew that Jason was a fan of Johanna Rothman, who was teaching next door and kindly came over to help Jason change.

Starting the Change

Little is clear that the change process doesn’t start on some magical date that you’ve plugged into your project management software. Your attempts to manage the change start when people begin to mumble about the change and wonder what it means to them. If change is about managing the human aspects of change, then the idea that it becomes relevant when people begin to worry makes a great deal of sense.

The Mojito Method

Little explains that his approach to change management is based on Jurgen Appelo’s Mojito Method. The short of this method is that you mix ideas from multiple industries and disciplines into something that is uniquely your own but is based on sound working practices. The approach is what many would recommend for creativity and innovation. (See Creative Confidence, The Innovator’s DNA, and Design Thinking for more on mixing ideas.)

In Little’s case, he leans on his software development background.

Lean Change Cycle

Little explains the approach to organizational change management as an extension of agile and lean principles. Things like iterate fast, create minimum viable products, and learn are at the core of the approach. He uses an iterative process like Deming’s PDCA/PDSA cycle. However, in his cycle, it starts with insights, which create options, which lead to experiments that lead to more insights. The experiments themselves can be broken into preparing, introducing, and reviewing.

The general idea is to start the process and keep iterating, and therefore learning, until you reach the success that you desire.

Culture Hacking

Little introduces another technique brought to the agile community by Stefan Haas. The culture hacking process consists of three components: the crack, the hack, and hacking zone. They are as follows:

  • The Crack – The dysfunction of the organization that feels uncomfortable.
  • The Hack – The action that you take to amplify the discomfort of the crack.
  • The Hacking Zone – The degree of danger that your hack exposes you to as follows:
    • Green – Safe. These hacks aren’t a threat to you or anyone else.
    • Blue – Risky. These hacks aren’t likely to get you in serious trouble but might.
    • Red – Dangerous. These hacks will most certainly upset people. The question is whether they’ll fire you, label you a rogue, or accept the change.

I’ve learned through my study of learning that sometimes there’s a degree of desirable difficulty and the necessity to make it intentionally difficult to the learner – but that the difficulty must be in a very narrow band. Culture hacking seeks to make the appropriate level of discomfort overt. (See The Adult Learner and Efficiency in Learning for more on how to make learning more effective.)

Embracing Uncertainty

At the heart of Little’s recommendations lies one of the fundamental perspectives of agile. While traditional software development and organizational change believed that you can script every move, agile believes that the kinds of problems being worked are inherently too complex to be resolved by one group doing all the planning. Agile works from the premise that everyone is a part of finding the solution, because allowing everyone to solve their own problems may lead to sub-optimal solutions for the individual instance but ultimately will result in better overall outcomes.

Said differently, agile assumes that uncertainty can’t be removed, and therefore it’s more important to adapt to the uncertainty than to try to plan around it. The Soviet system of Leninist Marxism didn’t work, because central planning wasn’t efficient enough to compete with the energy produced by capitalism.

If you’re uncertain about whether you’re ready for a change, maybe you can approach your uncertainty with Lean Change Management.

Book Review-Conversations of Change: A Guide to Implementing Workplace Change

The greatest irony in a book with a title like Conversations of Change: A Guide to Implementing Workplace Change is to realize that there are few – if any – conversations of change really going on. Tucked in the back of this book is a list of the people that Dr. Jen Frahm believes are notable. They’re the leaders who are helping to move change forward. When I followed the URLs in the book, I found about 1/3 of their websites were gone completely. About 1/3 of the people on the list hadn’t posted a blog post in the last year or more. The remaining 1/3 of the sites had at least a moderate level of activity. So much for the conversation. This rate of failure is much higher than I’d expect for a book published less than 4 years ago.

Context

One of the great things about the book is that it helps to set the context for a change conversation. Despite many of the missing people, the key players, including ACMP and CMI, are explained as well as other players in the change management and organizational change management space. This baseline understanding can help people orient in the change management space.

Included in the orientation is some information about models and how methodologies and models aren’t a replacement for wisdom and experience. However, another one of the aspects that Dr. Frahm covers is the players in the change management process, which bears some investigation.

The Roles

I’m a fan of helping people orient to a space through the development of role charts. I created a role chart for software development and for training development. Here’s Frahm’s list for change (with my definitions/summaries):

  • Change Leader – The leaders (executives and directors) willing to publicly support the change.
  • Change Sponsor – The person ultimately accountable for the change.
  • Change Agent – The person who moves the change forward, often without direct, formal authority.
  • Change Champion – A person who extends the reach of the change team to encourage users and others to change.
  • Change Consultant – An external party brought in to support the change.
  • Change Manager – A manager whose people are impacted by the change.
  • Change Communications Advisor – A person who supports communications related to the project.
  • Change Analyst – A person who is responsible for managing the intersection of the change with different audiences and smoothing over any rough edges.
  • Change Enablers – People from supporting teams that help to facilitate or block the change. Commonly, these people are found in HR, Communications, IT, and Accounting.
  • Subject Matter Experts – The people who know their work best; what Taiichi Ohno would call “Gemba.”
  • Super Users – Highly skilled users who push the edges of the change.

Fakes and Failure Rates

One of the most challenging aspects about change is it’s difficult to tell who understands change and who doesn’t. It’s easy to say that you understand change management. It’s harder to prove that you understand how to manage the nuances of numerous sub-disciplines to navigate to safe waters. Here, Frahm quickly talks about certifications before moving on to a pet peeve.

There’s an often-quoted failure rate of 70% for change projects. John Kotter (see Leading Change and The Heart of Change) and Darryl Conner (see Managing at the Speed of Change and Leading at the Edge of Chaos) both use this failure rate as a part of their conversation about change. Frahm argues that the original number of 70% doesn’t have a basis in research. My response is, “duh!” Sorry, I learned a long time ago that if a percentage ends in a zero, there is practically zero chance that it was a research-based number. Research numbers rarely come out so cleanly.

The problem, in my estimation, isn’t whether the original 70% failure rate is research-based but rather whether it’s a reasonable estimate. We learned from Superforecasting and How to Measure Anything that you don’t always have to chase apparent accuracy when you can validate the number is roughly right through other means.

Frahm herself introduces IFOTOB – delivered “In Full, On Time, and On Budget” – as a project management metric. It’s a hard standard for projects, particularly heuristic projects, which invariably change projects are. Heuristic projects have no one definitive path forward, and the solutions are almost never completely understood at their outset. A quick search of research seems to indicate that 70% of all large-scale projects fail to hit all three of these targets. In short, while the number isn’t research-based, it’s reasonable if you’re willing to use a strict standard. It’s generous if you’re going to add “On Value” – meaning the project returned the value it was supposed to return.

Agile

Frahm stumbles into a conversation about agile software development. Having a software development background, I have a different perspective of agile software development. First, agile software development reduces ceremony. That is, instead of formal anything, it replaces it with understanding and co-creation.

Second, agile is about understanding humans and how we work best. We’re solving real problems for real people, and that matters. Finally, software development, like change, is a heuristic problem. There’s no one right way to do things, and there is instead only a path to be found by taking one step, reassessing, and then taking the next step.

RAS and the Resistance

Frahm speaks about our reticular activating system (RAS). It’s the master filter of our brains, and it’s the part of us that controls the difference between sleeping and waking. The RAS can become focused, and the things that are more salient suddenly are raised to conscious more. When you’ve recently purchased a new car, you’ll see that car on the road everywhere, because your RAS is tuned into that particular make and model. (See Got Your Attention? and Change or Die for more on the RAS.)

Frahm is concerned that by looking for resistance, you’ll train your RAS to look for more resistance and it’s all you’ll see. Here, the psychology gets murky, but I believe the thinking is off a bit for two reasons. As Daniel Kahneman explains in Thinking, Fast and Slow, we have a negative bias. In short, we’re going to look for resistance naturally because it’s a threat to our change. Second, the RAS isn’t a one-trick-pony. The RAS can – and does – monitor for anything that is anticipated to be salient. It’s important to look for resistance (see Why People Don’t Resist Change) but also to look for bright spots to get both the good and the bad. (See Switch for more on bright spots.)

Practically Speaking

One of the best things about the book is that it generally takes a very practical perspective on change, from making a point that change projects with fancy sounding names end up getting very negative nicknames to recognizing that not everyone influences through charisma. (See Nick Morgan’s book Trust Me for more on charisma and authenticity.)

If you want to get a solid framing for change management without academic mumbo-jumbo, it may all start with Conversations of Change.

Book Review-99 Ways to Influence Change

Many people that write about change write as if you’ve already got the support of executive leadership and that it’s just a matter of learning how to execute. It’s as if the whole buy-in problem has been solved already. Heather Stagl doesn’t write from that perspective. She writes from the perspective of the change agent who is stuck in the middle. They’re in a situation that they know should or needs to change, but they’re responsible for building support for the idea. That’s what 99 Ways to Influence Change is. It’s a handbook for those stuck in the middle of change for how to be more effective when they’re trying to get change done.

One Page

Rather than list the 99 ways of influencing change that Stagl presents in the book, I’ll point you to a one-page summary she has on her website. It provides the outline for the ideas that are presented in the book, which she shares came from some of the other books that I’ve already read and reviewed, including Leading Change, Nudge, Predictably Irrational, Switch, Influencer, and Influence.

The list is a good short summary of many key points and makes a great “one-a-day” sort of motivational book for trying to drive your change project forward. I’ve picked a few points from her list that I’d like to amplify.

Modeling Behavior

One of the hardest things to do as a leader (and a parent) sometimes is to model the behavior you want to see in others. If you want to encourage emotional intelligence in others, you must display it yourself. Stagl explains that you show folks the “right way,” or the way you want to see them do the behavior, which demonstrates commitment and encourages others to conform to the behavior. She was implying but not directly referring to Solomon Asch’s work on compliance, which was followed up by Stanley Milgram. (See Unthink for more on Asch and Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) for more on Milgram.)

Temporary Assignment: Change Agent

In Stagl’s view, the position of change agent should be temporary. Folks who are champions, agents, and friends of change should rotate periodically, so they don’t get burned out – and so the organization doesn’t start to reject them like a virus. Being a change agent is hard work, and you don’t want folks to have to take on the role forever. (If you’re feeling like you’re becoming burned out, you’ll find resources at Extinguish Burnout to help.)

Care Before Knowledge

People don’t care how much you know before they know how much you care. This is the core truth at the heart of Radical Candor. It’s also something that you’ll learn as a leader. No matter how remarkable you are or how much you know, it won’t matter until people believe that you care about them – more than you care about what you know.

Competition and Cooperation

Some of the suggestions that Stagl shares come with warnings and caveats. Imploring folks to compete is one of those suggestions that receives a warning. I firmly believe that some folks are wired to compete, and they want that sense of competition in many aspects of their lives. I also believe that this is generally unhealthy when focused internally in an organization. Richard Hackman in Collaborative Intelligence explains how the forces of competition inside a group are disruptive to the success of the group. As a result, I believe that competition should be reserved for outside the organization and collaboration used exclusively inside the organization.

I recognize that this may be an unpopular view, with some indicating that salespeople and others who are prone to competitive personalities may need this to be motivated. Here, I point them to Edward Deci’s work in Why We Do What We Do and how fragile intrinsic motivation is in the face of external motivators – like competition.

Transparency and Trust

It’s framed in the context of transparency in an item titled trust. It’s about how to improve the trust, because trust is a universal lubricant that makes things easier and better. (See Trust=>Vulnerability=>Intimacy, Revisited for more of my thoughts on this.) It’s important to realize that trust is sometimes – but not always – transparency. The more that you’re able to help everyone feel like you’re trustworthy in your actions, your capabilities, and your communication, the less friction you’ll see in your project.

Listening

Yogi Berra is said to have said, “You can learn a lot by listening.” The truth is that, though we all believe we’re good at communicating, we’re not all that good. (See Mindreading as a primer.) While our ability to understand what is going on inside others’ minds may have separated us from other animals, it’s not foolproof. (See The Righteous Mind for more.) The truth is that listening is about sense-making. This could be The Ethnographic Interview to try to understand another culture or Motivational Interviewing to try to deeply understand an addict’s point of view before gently moving them towards healthier behaviors.

100th Way

The title inspired me to wonder, “What would I add as the 100th way to influence change?” Certainly, there are other ideas and research-based perspectives for moving change forward, but I think the simplest answer might be to read 99 Ways to Influence Change.