Book Review-The Change Monster: The Human Forces That Fuel or Foil Corporate Transformation and Change

Change is often seen as a monster. It’s seen as something that is there to attack the status quo and disrupt everyone’s life. Jeanie Daniel Duck explains how this monster can be tamed in The Change Monster: The Human Forces That Fuel or Foil Corporate Transformation and Change. The change monster, she explains, follows a predictable path called the change curve, and by mastering the change curve, you can tame the monster.

The Change Curve

The change curve has five phases:

  • Stagnation – The result of poor strategy, lack of leadership, a market shift, a product failure, a lack of new products or services, too few resources, outdated technology, outdated process, or poor execution, stagnation can be identified by outdated products or services, falling sales and share price, customer desertion, and talent drain – though it’s possible that it will have none of these indicators, particularly if addressed early.
  • Preparation – After the decision to change, preparation begins, and work is done to prepare the organization for the required change.
  • Implementation – With planning completed or mostly completed, implementation of the planned changes begins, and as things unfold, the plans are adjusted to fit reality. This is the start of the “real work” of changing behaviors.
  • Determination – The point where the organization realizes that the change is real and it applies to everyone, including them.
  • Fruition – Not every change will reach this phase but those that do see the benefits of the change – and ensure that the next change will work better.

These are the phases, but it takes strong leadership to guide the change monster through the phases successfully.


Leadership is a hard thing to define, as Joseph Rost proves in Leadership for the Twenty-First Century. Whether or not you share Rost’s perspective on the need to deemphasize leaders and speak more about the relationship, you’re likely to know what it looks like when the leadership isn’t aligned towards a common goal.

The result for middle managers and employees is disorienting. What starts at the top as a small gap in vision or approach becomes a wide gap by the time it reaches middle management and the employees. While leadership may believe that people aren’t following their beautiful strategy, it may be that the differences in understanding, the impracticality of the strategy, or the leadership conflict is freezing everyone into old patterns. In short, it may not be as much as the “they” aren’t doing it as much as “we” aren’t explaining things consistently and realistically enough for anyone to follow.


In most organizations, the problem isn’t strategy as much as it is an inability to translate that strategy into the thinking and behavioral changes that every employee needs to make to make the strategy successful. Too often, executives (I hesitate to call them leadership) develop the strategy during some three-day retreat in an exotic or at least peaceful location. They come back and hand off the strategy believing their work is done.

It’s more accurate to say that they’re ready to start the work – the hard work. It’s the work of translating the goals in the strategy into the set of actions, behaviors, and metrics that are needed to cause the vision contained in the strategy to come to life. These steps aren’t done, and as a result, it becomes impossible for employees to understand how things must change behaviorally and how their thinking must change.


Every implementation of change has problems. It’s not possible to completely avoid problems. It is possible to plan for them, and it is possible to address them once they occur. It’s wrong to believe that problems won’t happen or that they can be ignored. It’s the response to the problems that allows leadership to show their strength.

In the most ideal form, the responses to change and the inevitable problems that will arise create a willingness and wanting for everyone to display the same commitment to change and to resolving problems. Good leadership does more than solve the immediate problems. Instead, they teach everyone how to manage change and solve problems going forward.

For Love and Behavior

The goal with any change project is for everyone to love it. The goal is to tell such a compelling story about the need for change that everyone loves the solutions the leadership has proposed. However, even when this is not possible, it’s necessary to hold everyone accountable to ensure their behavior is in alignment with the proposed change. It’s too easy to end up on one side of the spectrum, requiring love from everyone, or the other, ordering compliance.

Finding the middle way that encourages love but requires compliance is difficult but necessary inside organizations.

Ready, Willing, and Able

Duck focuses on three key aspects of change readiness: Ready, Willing, and Able. Ready is about recognizing the need for change. Willingness is about being willing to do the work necessary to accomplish the change. Ability is about having the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful. Ready and willing roughly equate to ADKAR’s desire, while able roughly equates to ability.

All three are required in varying degrees for a successful change effort. If an organization doesn’t show signs of readiness, willingness, or ability, then these will need to be developed prior to the change starting or during the change process to be successful.

Communications and What Happens When You Don’t

Most change approaches are preoccupied with communications for good reason. When people aren’t given a real, concrete answer, they’ll make up their own fantasy about what is or will be happening, and their fantasy will be more powerful than any reality you may be able to communicate. If you don’t believe this to be truth, consider the now retracted story about the connection between autism and immunization. The lead author on the study that The Lancet retracted has lost his license to practice medicine. Despite this, there’s a very vocal contingent of parents who don’t believe in immunizing their children because of a single, retracted article. It was first and plausible, so it became the story that was anchored in people’s minds – even after substantial proof that it’s wrong.

The unfortunate reality of the fantasies created in the minds of the organizations’ workers is that they’ll connect the dots in the most pathological way possible. The ways they’ll connect the dots between your messages to make sense of their experience will necessarily be negative and will invariably be weird to the point of pathology.

That’s why it’s necessary to not only communicate the message consistently via mass media in the organization but also to get managers and their teams face to face to discuss what the message means to them. Without this, it’s not that you can just see how interpretations could go off the rails – you should expect it.

Converting the Rebels

If you want to make people perk up their ears and take notice to what you’re doing, don’t move the folks who are on the fence to your side, move your staunchest opponent to your corner. The conversion to your cause sends a strong message that even one of the most opposed saw the logic of your change. The power of a single rebel converted to your way of thinking is worth their weight in gold. Those who followed them in their opposition are likely to follow them across the line and can swing the tide of the change.

You won’t convert every rebel, nor should you focus all your energy in this direction, but, done correctly, this is a powerful tool to accelerate the adoption of your change.

There is No Shortcut to Greatness

During changes, it’s often necessary to make cuts. It’s necessary to free up resources to provide those resources for the change effort. However, no change that is focused exclusively on cuts can be successful at accomplishing greatness. To accomplish greatness, it takes the kind of innovative leadership and strength that is generative, not reductive.

Testing Assumptions

The fact that change is a monster is an assumption like any other. It’s not that assumptions are bad. It’s what we’re designed to do as humans. It allows us to process and increasingly complex and confusing world. However, failing to test your assumptions can be an Achilles heel that brings down even the best change project. Maybe it’s time to test your assumptions about change by trying to tame The Change Monster.

Book Review-Principles of Topological Psychology

On the surface, it would seem like math would have very little to do with psychology. However, when looking at Kurt Lewin’s work in Principles of Topological Psychology, it’s clear to see how mathematical models influenced his thinking on psychology and how to motivate people.

Context and Math

Most folks know Kurt Lewin’s work because of his famous equation that behavior is a function of both person and environment. Some are aware that he proposed a model for change that involves unfreezing behavior, changing behavior, and freezing it again. Those aware of his concepts regarding force fields and their application in accomplishing change will recognize how Lewin was influenced by science and electromagnetism. (See A Dynamic Theory of Personality for more.)

Here, Lewin’s thoughts about psychology and motivation use set-based language from advanced math. He speaks about the things that are inclusive to a state, the boundary conditions, and other concepts that are borrowed directly from advanced mathematics.

I was surprised about the relationship, even though I had read John Gottman’s work in The Science of Trust. Gottman’s particular interest in game theory comes from advanced mathematics and mathematical simulation as well. If you want to know more about game theory and its application, see The Evolution of Cooperation.

States and Motion

While force field analysis was concerned with the motivators for moving someone in one direction or another, topological psychology is concerned with your current state and the places that are accessible from that state. It’s about creating a map from where someone is at any given moment to their desired state. The transition from today to the future can be a single step across a single border or it can be a multi-step process with various borders.

The motive force is provided by force fields pushing or pulling on the psyche of the individual, but the application of that force is most interesting in topological psychology. What path will be chosen to move towards the goal – and why?


One of the key points is that it’s more than the force that’s applied to a person. It’s the relationship between the person and their environment – or the mental maps of their environment – that really matter. Relationships have multiple meanings when addressing psychology. Here, the relationships are most concerned about the interaction of the person with the environment. The environment pulls on the person, and the person pulls on the environment.

While it’s helpful to think of one force that drives someone and one set of conceptions of the environment that drive the behavior in one direction or another, it’s more accurate to say that there are many forces and understandings of the environment that shape the way the person will behave.

Regions and Boundaries

Regions are the collection of mental states that are qualitatively like one another – and other regions are qualitatively different. Boundaries are the places between these two dissimilar spaces. There are two implications from math that are useful but not infinitely true.

First, regions can be subdivided. Just because the region contains a set of mental states that are similar doesn’t meant that, when evaluated from another dimension, the region might not split into two regions. Mathematically, a closed set should allow for infinite subdivision. While this is unlikely the case with mental states, it’s possible to provide a great deal of division, thereby separating thoughts and perspectives based on numerous criteria.

Second, boundaries are really regions as well. While it’s easy to conceptualize a boundary as a crisp line, such a crisp distinction doesn’t always exist. Consider the regions for the colors red, blue, and green. In which group does the color blue-green belong? This classic information architecture problem leads to an awareness that even boundaries can be expanded to more detail when appropriate.

Person and Environment are not Independent Variables

Going back to Lewin’s equation that behavior is a function of both person and environment, it’s important to recognize that the person and the environment are not independent variables. That is, person impacts environment and environment impacts person. While we can recognize the distinct agency of the person, we should acknowledge that a person is – at least partially – a product of their environment. (See No Two Alike for more.)

If you’re wondering how people move from one perspective to another – and how that impacts behavior – maybe it’s time to look at the Principles of Topological Psychology.

Conflict: Anger

If you’re in conflict for very long, you’re bound to get angry, but too few people have been taught what anger is and what to do about it – if you ignore the “get revenge” option. Anger is a core emotion that is a part of our shared human experience, yet at the same time, it’s something that we know very little about. There can be little doubt that anger doesn’t get the same attention as other emotions. For instance, fewer songs are written about anger than love.

Disappointment Directed

Buried in a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Paul Eckman is a jewel that makes anger make sense. Destructive Emotions chronicles the conversation between the two and the Dalai Lama’s explanation that anger is disappointment directed. Every time we’re angry, we’re disappointed. We may be disappointed with ourselves or with someone else, but we’re disappointed.

For most, this concept takes a few minutes to be accepted as we seek to find times that we were angry yet not disappointed. Sometimes, we may point to situations where we believed we were angry but for which we can’t find a way that we were disappointed. Most situations are simple enough. Someone said they would do X but actually did Y. Or I expected people to behave in a trustworthy manner, but they proved I was wrong when they didn’t.

In other cases, the assumptions are buried so deeply that we can’t see they’re there. When someone cuts us off in line, we may be disappointed, because the other person doesn’t have respect for others. When others cheat, we may be disappointed because we expected the other person to be honest.

Expectations and Judgement

Disappointment is fundamentally based on the expectations we had that were violated and our judgement of that violation. You expect that if you drive downtown in a major city and leave the door of your car open with the car running, it will be stolen. If there’s anger in this situation, it will be directed towards yourself and why you didn’t realize the risk. It’s less likely you’ll be angry at the person who actually stole the car. Conversely, if you lock your car in your locked garage, and someone steals it, you’re likely to be quite angry with the person who stole your car.

The reasoning is based on your expectations of what will happen. When those expectations are violated, you judge the parties in the situation and use judgement to decide where to direct your disappointment and anger.

If you want to get better control of your anger, you’ll want to ground your expectations and suspend your judgements.

Grounding Expectations

No one is perfect. Because of that, mistakes will be made. This fundamental thinking about mistakes changes the default response when a mistake is made from one of disappointment and anger to one of reluctant acceptance. No one “likes” errors, but if your expectation is that, from time to time, they will be made, your expectations are adjusted to allow for them.

Grounding expectations about a lack of perfection in the world may not be a hard stretch. The hard part is when you expect something but it turns out that it’s not reality based. The greater you can ground your expectations in reality, the more effective you’ll be at keeping anger at bay and the easier it will be to suspend judgement

Suspending Judgement

A violated expectation is judged. Was the expectation right? Is the gap in the expectation reasonable? The problem is that these judgements often lead to anger instead of acceptance. If we’re willing to accept that the expectation was missed and that we can be disappointed in the outcome without judging who is at fault, we can avoid being blinded by anger.

Anger is, unfortunately, a part of our lives, but we can learn to ground our expectations and accept rather than judge. Perhaps we can live up to the ideal that Aristotle first spoke of: “Anybody can become angry – that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

Book Review-Why Are We Yelling?: The Art of Productive Disagreement

I stumbled across Buster Benson’s work through the cognitive bias codex – a listing of 200 or so known cognitive biases. That led me to his book, Why Are We Yelling?: The Art of Productive Disagreement. I’ve read several books on conflict and disagreement – and we teach on the topic – so I wasn’t expecting much. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a coherent response to an intractable problem.


One of the largest things that we deal with when we teach conflict is to dispense with the myth that conflict is bad. Poorly handled conflict is bad, but conflict itself is what allows us to get better. We get better in our understanding and in the way that we work with others. When we handle conflicts poorly, we damage relationships, and we injure other people or ourselves. The key to learning how to view conflict more neutrally is learning how to address it more productively.

Benson’s second misconception is that arguments change minds. In the sense that we cannot, through our sheer force of will, change someone else’s mind, Benson is correct. However, at the same time, the appropriate application of conflict resolution techniques makes it possible to encourage others to reevaluate their choices and they can change their own minds. It’s a bit of semantics if you get right down to it.

His final misconception is that arguments end. His point is that often arguments don’t end, they’re buried underground. There’s an old joke about a man telling his therapist “Whenever we get into an argument, my wife gets all historical.” The therapist questions the man, “You mean she gets hysterical?” He replies “No, historical, she tells me everything I’ve ever done wrong.” In that sense, forcing an end to an argument causes it to move underground only to surface later whenever tensions are high.

Here, too, I think it’s about perspective. Some arguments end in understanding and acceptance. When that happens, people don’t tend to get all historical and bring up the past unnecessarily.

Biases, Biases

Before delving into the techniques for managing conflict, it’s important to acknowledge how we got here. We have conflict in our world, because we either hold different values from someone else – or we have a different perspective. That’s what we teach in our workshops. On the values front, we often start by referring to Jonathan Haidt’s foundations of morality from The Righteous Mind and continue through Steven Reiss’ work in The Normal Personality and Who Am I?. On perspectives, we generally teach Chris Arygris’ Ladder of Inference, and how we can all see the same thing and end up believing different things based on the data we extract, the meaning, assumptions, and beliefs we ascribe to that data. (See Choice Theory for more on Argyris’ Ladder of Inference.)

Benson’s refrain from the book is that biases cannot be avoided or eliminated. We must accept that they happen and work to compensate for them. While it would be nice if we could just cut them out, the reality is that it’s simply not possible. Biases exist because we need them to be able to cope with the massive amounts of information we have coming at us every day. (See The Organized Mind for more on our coping with information and Emotion and Adaptation about our ability to suppress our emotions.)

True, Meaningful, and Useful

Benson believes that there are three things that can be going on in a conversation. It can be a conversation about what’s true, what’s meaningful or what’s useful. This reminded me of William Isaac’s work in Dialogue, in which he focused on power, meaning, and feeling. This was built on David Kantor’s work, which he continued in Reading the Room. There are many ways of viewing conversations and many approaches, but I find that helping people find ways to connect when it’s clear they’re missing each other is critically important.


One of my responses to conflict in general and in Benson’s work is that the key to conflict resolution both large and small is acceptance. Accepting that we’ll make mistakes. Accepting that others are imperfect, too. Accepting that there are different points of view that are equally valid. Accepting that we don’t—and won’t – have all the answers. When we can reach this perspective, where we’re certain in our uncertainty, we can begin to hear others. (See How to Be an Adult in Relationships for more on acceptance.)

Reason Built on Power

In Jonathan Haidt’s Rider-Elephant-Path model, reason sits on top of emotion. (See The Happiness Hypothesis and Switch.) Here, Benson proposes that reason in a conflict sits on top of power. I’d probably adjust this to say authority, since power is broader and most reason is based on some underlying belief of authority.

I see this argument made all the time. “You can’t do X, because you don’t have Y certification.” I’m not saying that having some certifying body say that you know something or have been trained to do something is a bad thing – rather, I’m saying, what if they’re wrong? Reason is based on foundational assumptions. Sometimes those assumptions aren’t accurate.


Benson also raises the issue of undiscussable topics in a disagreement. The more that things become undiscussable because of a lack of safety or courage, the less likely it is that the conflict will be addressed in an appropriate way. (For more on organizational safety, see The Fearless Organization.) Chris Argyris in Organizational Traps explains how undiscussables have a corrosive effect on organizations and individual relationships.

Disagree and Commit

But what happens if you can’t be convinced that the other person is correct? It comes back to accepting that we don’t have all the right answers. We simply disagree but commit to a course of action. Sometimes the process of continuing to fight things out is more painful and wasteful than trying either of the perspectives. So, we agree to try an approach, and we commit to it.

The big gap that exists in most organizations is the failure to commit to the decision. People leave the meeting and have the hallway meeting, where they already start to subvert the agreement and continue the argument even after they’ve agreed to agree. It’s like a cancer that grows from something small into something out of control. Unfortunately, it’s necessary to be conscientious when this behavior is seen, so that it can be removed quickly.

Discomfort is Growth Food

If you want to grow, discomfort is your food. Growth comes from discomfort. Whether it’s exercising to build muscle or it’s trying new things to expand your capabilities, discomfort is the breakfast food of champions. Taleb explains in Antifragile how the process of being harmed in the right way, in the right amounts, in the right timing can cause us to become stronger. By finding a level of strain that’s uncomfortable but not disruptively painful, we can find ways to grow.

This can happen as an individual or as a team. Marshal Goldsmith in What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and Jack Canfield in The Success Principles both implore people to be a little uncomfortable so that you can grow into something more.

Dangerous Ideas

The Australian aboriginal language of Dyirbal contains a category – balan – that includes women, fire, and dangerous things. (I discovered this through Ambient Findability.) Sometimes, the things that we need the most are the things that are the most dangerous to us. Sometimes, we just need to figure out Why Are We Yelling to figure out that we didn’t need to disagree at all.

Conflict: Preventing Our Perceptions from Hijacking Conversations

Have you ever been in the middle of a discussion, and you realize that the picture you are developing in your head about the conversation is guiding your responses?  When you combine this with your inner voice, the outcomes are not always positive.  The response generated by this inner dialogue might include shutting down and not listening to the person you are talking to at all.  It is easy to decide that the person you are talking to doesn’t think you know what you are talking about or cannot understand your perspective.  The pictures and voices in your head take over your ability to even hear what the other person is really saying.

Suddenly, most of the conversation is happening in your head and is driven by emotion and self-talk.  The results of this hijacking of your conversation and thought processes can happen so quickly you don’t even realize it for a while.  The discussion becomes more frustrating and can turn into a conflict that neither person can explain the root cause of.

Learn to Listen to Yourself

You can learn to stop the hijacking and stay in the conversation.  One of the first things you can do to prevent hijacking of your thought process is to take a moment to test your assumptions.  When you realize that you are getting upset, reflect to the other person what you thought you heard.  This gives them a chance to validate your thoughts or give you new information to process.  This can be as simple as saying, “I feel like you are saying that my perspective is not valid.”  You are sharing your thoughts without blaming the other person.  Whatever they respond with, you have the chance to listen to their answer and process it in comparison to your beliefs.  This may be enough to redirect the process going on in your head and enable you to focus on the conversation with the person – not the one you are having with yourself.

If you are not comfortable asking for clarification, you can ask for a few minutes to process what you have been discussing.  Take this time to consider what is being said compared to the conclusions you are making.  Your conclusions may be valid, but it is possible that you have added your own concerns and fears and have developed a belief that is not grounded in fact and is harmful to your success.


It seems that there are specific times when we are less able to redirect our thoughts.  It may be that you entered the conversation at a time when you were hungry, angry, lonely, and/or tired.  When you are in one of these states, you may find your resilience is greatly reduced and your emotions are more likely to draw you into a negative state.

Get to Real

Being able to move beyond the images and voices in our heads is not always easy.  Practicing how we listen to the voices in our heads and process the information we hear from others helps us when we are in a conversation that becomes more heated.  This also helps us to validate our thoughts before we become hijacked by them and turn a conversation into a conflict.


Learning to harness our inner voices helps us to be more effective both at home and at work.  We become more skilled at having real discussions and relationships.

Book Review-Information Governance: Concepts, Strategies and Best Practices

Unlike most of my reviews, I should start with a small disclaimer. Robert Smallwood, the primary author, reached out to me over a year ago and asked if I’d consider helping him with some SharePoint and Office 365 content in his Information Governance: Concepts, Strategies, and Best Practices book. I’ve received a brief mention in the book and a small section of the content is something I wrote. With the disclaimer out of the way, let’s dive in.

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

One of the challenges to information governance is that it covers so many topics, many of which are full-time disciplines themselves. It’s a monumental challenge to pull together a resource with this kind of breadth and one that Smallwood has executed faithfully. I won’t say that all the content is perfect, because it’s not. However, I will say that is a great overview to several topics that are important to implementing an effective information governance plan.

Information governance has a singular goal to maximize the value of information including how it’s used and the mitigation of risk. While the goal is simple, the implementation is far from it. The number of different considerations from different disciplines is numerous and potentially overwhelming. If you need a quick summary of information governance, see my post, Explaining What Information Governance Is.

Dark Data

Astronomers estimate that dark matter represents about 85% of the matter in the universe and about a quarter of the overall density. Its presence is implied by observations, including gravitational effects, but because it doesn’t appear to interact with the electromagnetic spectrum, it’s difficult to detect directly. This gives rise to the term “dark data,” which refers to information that isn’t categorized properly and therefore is difficult to find and use.

The degree to which dark data is a problem is debated, but estimates on the amount of data that is “dark” are somewhere around 50% of all the data collected and stored by an organization. When you add in other forms of data like redundancy, about 69% of information has no business, legal, or regulatory value (according to the Compliance, Governance, and Oversight Council (CGOC)). In short, much of the data that we’re storing is data that we shouldn’t be storing, and it’s only getting worse.

Exponential Growth

The largest problem facing information governance is the velocity with which the volume of data is growing. It’s estimated that 90% of the existing worldwide data was created in the past two years. How can you keep up if every time you get a handle on things, the entire scope of the problem changes? The answer cannot be found in control, though it may be found in a combination of guiding and control.

It may be that the only way to manage the onslaught of data is to control some aspects – such as the retention of data from IoT (the Internet of Things) sources – and suggest standards for how people manage the information they work with directly.

Information Value

One of Smallwood’s key tenets to information governance is the subject of the Infonomics book. That is, that information should be treated like an asset. The only way to extract value out of something is for that something to be an asset. If information isn’t valued like an asset, then it will be impossible to extract value from it.

There’s an awareness that we continue to create more data, information, and knowledge than at any point in human history, and we spend immense sums to store and manage this information. There is relatively less awareness of the value that could be derived. We’re holding most of the data “just in case.”

Going Phishing

Holding on to information is particularly challenging because of the risk that its value will be unwittingly discovered by a nefarious third party. The most voluminous approach to infiltrating the corporate infrastructure comes in the form of phishing attempts. Every day, attackers are trying to trick users into using their credentials to authenticate to a fake website. They’re trying to convince users to open documents sent to them, which have been intentionally crafted to exploit vulnerabilities, in the hope that your organization hasn’t yet patched the vulnerability.

The propensity for employees to trust email and to do the attackers’ bidding causes it to be the most common attack vector and the one which is the hardest to address. In Transformational Security Awareness, Perry Carpenter explains why this is the case and what to do about it.

Containing the Leaks (DLP)

Sometimes, the reason that corporate information escapes the walls of the organization isn’t because of nefarious individuals trying to hack into the corporate treasure trove. Instead, employees are subverting the security controls by sending copies of the files they work with to their personal email accounts and uploading them to their personal file sharing repositories. It’s also employees sharing information to third parties in a careless manor.

Some types of information, particularly personally identifiable information (PII), should not leave the bounds of the organization’s network without clear rules and agreements, yet it happens every day. Social security numbers are transmitted in clear text via email and subjected to unauthorized observation.

Solutions for addressing these problems are called digital loss prevention (DLP) – though I believe that they would more accurately be described as digital leakage prevention solutions, since the information isn’t lost, it’s leaked.

Long Term Digital Preservation

Sometimes, the loss isn’t the direct result of a failure of hardware. Sometimes, an inability to recover important information happens because of the frailty of media. In these situations, creating multiple copies and periodically refreshing the media can help. However, another more challenging problem exists as data is locked away inside of file formats that can no longer be decoded.

Consider video recordings that were encoded in Adobe’s Flash SWF format. Most of the modern video players will not play video that was encoded in this format. If you have videos that you must maintain for a long period of time, the file format you choose matters. The MP4 H.264 AVC format is a stable format that’s likely to be supported for some time – but that means converting the file into this format for long-term preservation.

Luckily, long-term preservation of images and documents can be accomplished using the PDF/A standard format that is likely to be supported by most file viewers and operating system for the foreseeable future. Other file formats must be managed so that their file format can be read in the future.

Too Many Records to Manage

The truth is that the volume of information we’re producing now greatly exceeds the capacity of users to properly manage and classify the information. We know that users will not invest the time to properly tag and provide metadata for files in a general case. Whether they see this as not important or not their job doesn’t matter – what matters is that a substantial amount of the information being captured today is difficult to find, because it’s not been properly tagged.

The idea that employees are willfully not complying with requests for metadata information assumes at some level that they’ve been informed of what is expected and been made aware not only of the consequences of failure both personally and to the organization – but also that they’ve been given the tools to accomplish the appropriate tagging.

“The tools” means more than just the software. It means a guide for identifying what metadata needs to be supplied to which files and how to properly identify records that must be protected and preserved. Most people in the organization are focused on getting their job done, and rarely is the preservation of records considered to be a part of that process.

Developing Business Objectives

Ultimately, the most important aspect of an information governance program is the identification of the business goals for the program. What specific value does the organization believe they can get through better management of the information, including how they can extract the value of the information and how to mitigate risk? An information governance program is doomed if the only selling point to the program is reduced risk.

Organizations deal in risk, and it’s impossible to cover every risk. As a result, the organization often must decide which risks it must accept and move on. You don’t want your information governance program to be killed, because the risks it mitigates for the organization aren’t important enough when stacked up with the other competing priorities and risks.

In the end, Information Governance can put you on the right path towards extracting better value out of the information that your organization already has.

Book Review-Infonomics: How to Monetize, Manage, and Measure Information as an Asset for Competitive Advantage

Most of the time, we pay no attention to the wind that’s blowing past us. Whether it’s a cool breeze or a warm draft of air rising from the pavement, we’re so used to air movement around us that we rarely consider its implications until we encounter a tornado or a hurricane. Until we’re faced with overwhelming evidence, it’s just background noise. Despite the little attention we pay to them, these drafts of air are clues to the creation of energy. Windmills can convert the cool breeze into electricity, and proper placement of solar panels can capture that solar energy instead of radiating it.

Infonomics: How to Monetize, Manage, and Measure Information as an Asset for Competitive Advantage seeks to help us do the same for our information assets. The goal is to help us understand how to take advantage of the information that’s all around us in an organization.

Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom

Before we can deal with the idea that information has value, we must first be clear about what we’re talking about. Doug Laney is credited with creating the three Vs for big data: velocity, volume, and variety. He’s got a deep history with data and big data. However, the line between data and information isn’t entirely clear. In the introduction, Thomas Davenport quotes Peter Drucker, defining information as “data endowed with relevance and purpose,” but admits that’s notoriously subjective criteria.

Laney never seems to put a stake in the ground to separate data from information. Though the implication is clear, he sees unstructured data as generating more value than the structured data that organizations possess – even in the world of IoT and big data. Structured data is the kind that you’ll find in databases. It’s organized into rows and columns or into a structured schema that can be read and understood with simple algorithms.

Unstructured data won’t flow into rows and columns, and the clarity of the relationships is much, much harder. Any sort of writing or presentation falls into this category. There’s useful information in the document, but extracting it requires more complex algorithms or humans who can decode the subtle relationships and achieve understanding.

Complicating things is that the library and information science community hasn’t been able to come up with a crisp understanding of the differences between data (which is the plural of datum) and information. Similarly, there’s little consistency on what constitutes knowledge. These ideas are built on Russell Ackoff’s work that includes an additional stop at understanding – which is an entirely internal human condition and therefore excluded from the traditional build up from data to wisdom.

The best picture that seems to emerge is that, as you transition from one layer of the data-information-knowledge-wisdom hierarchy, you add additional understanding and utility. Admittedly, this isn’t clear and doesn’t provide a mechanism for distinguishing one from another, but given that much of what we do is contextual, this isn’t entirely surprising.

The primary schism that has been identified by the industry is that some of the levels – data and information – are primarily external, and the upper two levels – knowledge-wisdom – are uniquely human endeavors (for the moment). Wisdom is further distinguished by its projective nature. That is, wisdom can reach into the future where the other forms do not.

The net-net is that it’s not surprising that Laney doesn’t delve into the muck of a definition as to what information is and why much of the praise for the book comes from people with titles that include data – but not information or knowledge.

Edit, Transform, Load

Laney acknowledges that 90% of the cost of a project may be in the cleanup and formatting of data. I was trained on how to build data warehouses and did some work in this space over a decade ago. I decided not to focus my time in this traditional area of structured data management, called “business intelligence,” for only two reasons.

First, all data is bad. I don’t care where it came from or where it’s used. There’s bad data in every data source and it takes a very long time and a lot of effort to find it. While some can say that this only occurs in human-entered data and that IoT and other data sources are pure, I can tell you they’re not. The idea that you must debounce for multiple signals is as old as electronics. An easy way to see the modern challenge is to look at your fitness metrics from your watch or fitness device. You’ll find instances where you’ll have a single heart rate reading that is completely inconsistent with the rest of the data. While it’s technically possible that your heart rate would double for a minute and then resume a normal pattern, it’s highly unlikely. The more likely result is a bad reading. The process of cleaning these data points out – and doing so in a way that doesn’t skew the overall results – is a tricky proposition and fraught with problems.

Second, no business knows how it really operates. I’m sure there are diagrams or procedure manuals floating around in every organization, but they pale in comparison to the richness of the people doing the work. Because organizations don’t really understand how they work, the questions that are asked often lead to the wrong conclusions and bad strategies.

In the context of measuring the business value of information, it’s important to realize that the process of detecting and resolving the data errors in a way that allows the business to make meaningful positive decisions is a very heavy lift. While, on the one hand, I absolutely agree that information is an asset and that it has value, on the other hand, I’m concerned with our ability to extract meaningful information out of it.

You’re Soaking in It

There’s an old Palmolive commercial series where women are getting a manicure and the person helping them has them soaking in Palmolive dish detergent to moisten their skins – countering the perception that their dish soap is making their hands dry. The trick here is that we believe one thing and we experience another. We’re surrounded by data and information. The trick isn’t getting the data, it’s sorting which data is useful and which data is not useful. The problem isn’t, in most cases, a gathering problem; it’s a filtering problem.

Laney sidesteps the real issue of how one can determine what information they have from which they can extract value. He makes the point about the value of inventory on a balance sheet even though it can’t always readily be traded for cash. His point is that information should have a value, but I think the opposite point is interesting as well. You can only extract cash from inventory in the short term by offering a discount. That inventory is well tracked and maintained. It has a specific quantity and demand cycle. Information, on the other hand, has no such tracking, and, tragically, it’s hard to quantify both the value of and the cost for maintaining information. There’s no floor space that it consumes, and even the cost of storage inclusive of backup and other administrative support needs is still trivial.

In short, we don’t know what we have – but we’re soaking, if not drowning, in it.

Valuation Models

Laney provides a set of valuation models for information that I won’t transcribe here. I will only say that there are ways that he perceives you can represent the value of information. I don’t actually think the key is in the exact formula used. The point isn’t the resulting number. The point of the process is to develop a credible value number that allows the organization’s leadership to really see and understand the value of information as an asset. However, this is often an emotional rather than rational process.

Whether some model says $1 or $1 million dollars of value in the information in the organization, it makes little difference if the organization doesn’t have the right attitude about the information and that it is inherently valuable. If you want to see if you can shift your organization’s way of thinking about information, perhaps you should read Infonomics.

Book Review-Managing at the Speed of Change: How Resilient Managers Succeed and Prosper Where Others Fail

It’s the early 1990s, and corporate cultures, and learning how to cope with increasing degrees of change, are becoming a thing. That’s when Managing at the Speed of Change: How Resilient Managers Succeed and Prosper Where Others Fail was first released. It’s a window in time to the leading edge of the change that we’re all now fully immersed in. Daryl Conner had been consulting and studying organizations and change for a few decades when the book came out, and he recorded his observations about how organizations change – and more importantly what derailed those changes.

Doing the Same Things

The premise then and now is that the same techniques we’ve used in the past to manage complexity and change no longer work. The explosion of media, communications, and virtual connectivity fundamentally rewrites the landscape of our human condition. Because of that, the typical approaches to command and control just don’t work any longer. (See Reinventing Organizations for another view about how organizations need to evolve to accommodate the changes we’re seeing in the world.)

The idea that we can, from on high, control things in the increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world we find ourselves in is ludicrous. (See Stealing Fire for more on VUCA.) The Soviet Union had fallen, because the central planning model of Lenin’s Marxist beliefs just couldn’t compete with the chaotic power of a free market system. While everyone likes the idea of control, we’re finding it increasingly harder to do. (See Compelled to Control for more on our need to control.)

Future Shock

We’ve entered into a time when we’re experiencing future shock. The changes are happening around us at a rate greater than our capacity to cope, and this is causing dysfunctional behaviors. Like a deer stuck in the headlights of an oncoming car, we’re frozen or worse, and with the current rate of change, there seems to be few or no recovery options. We get up every day only to be knocked down by a seemingly unrelenting tsunami of change.

This is particularly true as we continue to face the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 that it causes. We’re adapting to new routines, new rules, and new approaches nearly daily. The weaknesses in our supply chain became apparent as we ran out of toilet paper, masks, and hair coloring. (See Antifragile and The Black Swan for more about how our tendency to optimize has made our supply chains more fragile than ever before.)

Dysfunctional Behavior

When Conner first wrote the book, he was concerned about the dysfunctional behavior he was seeing because of the future shock he believed we were experiencing as a society. The LA Riots were around this same time, and though he didn’t mention them by name, it’s clear that the level of civil unrest weighed heavily on his mind as he sought to reconcile the kinds of societal changes he was seeing in the face of constant change.

Understanding dysfunctional behavior isn’t easy. In Personality Types, the Enneagram model is explained – including the capacity for people to have both functional and dysfunctional behaviors within their primary operating models. The degree of change – and therefore the degree of future shock – caused Conner to speculate about the dysfunctional behaviors at a societal level.

I cannot imagine the vehemence of his words if they were written today, as we’ve seen so many dysfunctional behaviors that it makes the challenges of 30 years ago seem pale in comparison. We’ve seen riots and unrest on top of individuals attacking others for whether they are or aren’t wearing their masks.


Like Pandora stuck in the box with all the horrors of the world, we find hope through the development of resilience in people. We find that, in these times – like those after the 9-11 attacks – people are coming together. So, while there is unrest there are also random acts of kindness as neighbors help other neighbors. Conner explains that resilience is “the capacity to absorb high levels of change while displaying minimal dysfunctional behavior.” Not only do some people absorb high levels of change and display minimal dysfunctional behavior, they also actively mitigate the dysfunctional behaviors by doing acts that are designed to reduce the impact.

Reactions to Change

The way that people respond to change is, in some sense, predictable. At another level, it’s largely unpredictable. If the change is perceived negatively, then the person will go through the stages of grief as described by Kubler-Ross in On Death and Dying. If the change is perceived positively, Conner asserts that there’s a different sequence of emotions: uninformed optimism, informed pessimism, hopeful realism, informed optimism, and completion – with the possibility of checking out as a part of the process. This process is similar to Gartner’s hype cycle, though Gartner doesn’t focus on how one might exit the process.

Bridges, in Managing Transitions, has a slightly different assertion. He asserts that, even when changes are perceived as positive, people still experience a sense of loss for the current way of doing things and will therefore follow an emotional cycle like the one Kubler-Ross describes. Bridges’ model doesn’t preclude the kind of unrealistic optimism that Conner describes. Similarly, Conner doesn’t prohibit the concept that someone might simultaneously think that the change is both positive and negative and therefore may be on both cycles simultaneously.

Intellectual Preparation and Emotional Readiness

Our reason can intellectually prepare us for events that we anticipate in the future, yet it can somehow not necessarily prepare us emotionally. When you’re aware that a loved one is on the slow decline to their death, it doesn’t change the emotional toll that their passing places on your heart. The simple fact is that no amount of intellectual preparation can prepare you emotionally. Emotions, it seems, operate with their own mechanisms.

It’s possible to communicate and prepare an organization for an impending change and still need to carefully address the emotions associated with the change. Whether the change includes the retirement of a beloved mascot or saying goodbye to facilities that are no longer appropriate for the organization, the emotions that are uncovered may be overwhelming at times.

Ignoring these emotions or pretending they do not exist should be done only at one’s peril. Not only is the change effort likely to not succeed, but one’s career is also likely to be negatively impacted.

Prediction Engines

More than anything, humans are prediction engines. We try to predict what will happen next to prepare ourselves for it. While we may not be able to change the circumstances, we find some solace in our ability to predict the outcomes – even the negative outcomes. Our brains are wired around prediction so completely that even laughter seems to be the result of a prediction gone wrong. It’s the error-checking routine in our head that focuses us on more accurately predicting what’s happening next. (See Inside Jokes for more.)

I was trained as a comedian. (See I am a Comedian.) The good news is that this helped me learn how to be funny and how humor works even when I’m not funny. However, it’s also made me very aware of the tricks that comedians use to get the audience to laugh – as a result, they don’t deceive me, and I don’t genuinely laugh. I can appreciate their application of the techniques, but in many ways, learning how to better predict comedy made comedy itself less amusing.

Laughter is the relief valve programmed in to allow us to find amusement at the failure to predict the outcome. It’s a way to recalibrate and prevent us from the anxiety of a failure to accurately predict the future. We’re so wired to doing this that nature needed a pressure relief valve. It’s also why people under extreme stress sometimes think that inappropriate things are funny.

The Need for Control

Our fundamental nature as a prediction engine leads us to a high need for control. We want to know that the predictions we make will come true, and the best way to do that is if we are in control of the outcomes. Of course, control is just an illusion, and therefore we have a great number of ways that we shield our egos from the truth about our minimal degree of influence or control over certain acts. (See Compelled to Control for more about our need to control and Change or Die for more about our ego’s defenses.)

We believe that our control of situations eliminates violations of our expectations and therefore keeps us safe. However, the more we believe in our predictions and the more certain we are about our safety, the greater our risk is of being proved wrong in spectacular ways.

The Nature of Change

While we view all change as the same thing, not all changes are the same. Some changes are trivial and incremental in nature, while others are transformative. The techniques that are optimized for incremental and continuous improvement aren’t designed to address the transformative kinds of change that shake our perceptions of the world. Some of the changes that we confront are mere inconveniences, while others may require radically rethinking our values.

While it’s convenient to refer to all change in one big bucket, choosing strategies for responding to change requires a more detailed understanding of the forces that are preventing the change and the reasons that can be harnessed to create the change.

Demystification of Patterns

Watching an airplane take off for the first time can be a powerful experience. There’s something magical about that moment when you see an aircraft lift itself off the ground with nothing – at least that’s what it seems like. There are forces working on the aircraft in a predictable way, but you’re unable to see or understand them until someone explains them to you. Bernoulli first discovered the impacts of air flow and differential pressures, which led to the creation of the airfoil, which generates lift. Once you know how these forces work, you may still revere our ability to create heavier-than-air flight, but it’s no longer mysterious, and it’s somehow a bit less scary.

The change in our organization is similar. The better that we can teach people to demystify the forces that surround the culture and the change, the less concern and fear will surround the moment. The heart of change management is to demystify the process to the point where fear has no place to hide.

Assimilation Points

The truth is that it’s practically impossible to eliminate fear in organizations. (See The Fearless Organization for more.) Instead you must settle for reducing fear to a manageable level so that everyone can continue to function. Everyone has a degree of fear that they’re capable of accepting before their behavior becomes dysfunctional. That degree of fear is driven by their assimilation points. Assimilation points are consumed for every change consumed. It’s the capacity for change and fear. The greater the change and the more potential for negative consequences, the more points are consumed. Once you’ve consumed more points than the person has, they begin their dysfunctional behavior.

Obviously, this leads to the need to manage how much change you ask of people. More than that, it calls for you to create situations where there’s a greater number of assimilation points available. This comes through providing opportunities for the person to strengthen their self-efficacy and therefore become less fearful of the changes.

Conner here speaks of assimilation points as if there’s a fixed cost for a given change and as if people have different capacities. In my observation, it’s not that people increase their capacity as much as the costs are lower for people who have greater levels of self-efficacy because of the reduced fear they experience.

The Economics of Change

One of the recurring themes in change management is the costs of staying the same must be higher than the costs of changing, whether this is expressed via the Beckhard and Harris Change Formula or more simply by saying the change was mandatory. The important point here is that Conner coined the term “burning platform” based on the 1988 disastrous explosion and fire on an oil-drilling platform in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland and the interview with survivor Andy Mochan, who jumped from certain death on the platform to possible death in the freezing waters below.

The idea of a “burning platform” has become a part of change lore. John Kotter’s first step is to create a sense of urgency, but he’s careful to discourage yelling “fire” about platforms that aren’t burning. If there’s truly a burning platform, then it’s appropriate to warn others; however, if you warn folks too early, you may become as irrelevant as the boy who cried wolf.

Climbing the Shallow Slope

While it’s possible to get people to flee certain death and take whatever measures necessary – no matter how risky – in most cases, our change efforts don’t involve a truly burning platform. Instead they’re motivators that push us forward towards change, but the degree of change that individuals are willing to risk is proportional to the risk they perceive of staying the same.

Thus, we end up in a situation where, if we ask big things from our users, we’re forced to ensure that the motivating factors are large. So, we can either invest energy in making the problem seem as big as possible, or we can spend time making the asks of people easier for them to do.

Here, Robert Cialdini’s work in Influence is a key accelerator. He explains that if you ask people for small but measurable commitments, they’re more likely to make bigger commitments in the future. When it comes to change, we want to make sure that the first changes we ask someone for are small enough to be perceived as reasonable. From there, we remove the barriers to the next step (see Demand) and continue to ask for progressively larger changes until we’ve achieved all the individual changes that are required for organizational change success.

Visible Commitment

The fact that these small commitments must be visible isn’t a small factor. Rogers in Diffusion of Innovations was clear that the ability for someone to observe that others are doing the behavior is key to winning over the majority. We can amplify the visibility of changes by celebrating the successes of the change. Enhanced visibility not only for the change that is desired but the results that are achieved.

This is why organizations do successful case studies. People want to know that others have been successful before they’re willing to make the change themselves.

Resisting Loss

It’s common to hear that the people in the organization are resistant to change. It’s become folklore that people resist change. The problem is that this isn’t true, as Bridges has pointed out. (See Managing Transitions.) People resist loss – not change overall. When you experience resistance in your change effort, the key question isn’t “Why can’t they just listen?” The key question is what loss are they mourning? (See On Death and Dying for more.)

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine – Pay for Commitment or Resistance

You don’t have to do the work to generate commitment any more than you need to put a stitch in torn clothing as soon as you notice the tear. You can choose to ignore the situation; however, if you do, you should be prepared to deal with the consequences. Whether it’s nine stiches or the resistance that will naturally ensue when people aren’t committed to the change, there will be a cost.

It’s a pay me now or pay me later situation that allows you to prepare folks so they don’t feel profound loss and instead are focused on the benefits that they’ll receive – or you can pay for the resistance that is generated when they focus on their loss.

Needing Each Other

With the exception of solo entrepreneurs, the truth is that everyone in the organization needs everyone else for the organization to continue to succeed and therefore stay employed. There are people in the organization whom you need to do their job so that you can do yours. Often in corporate life, it becomes one group against the other group – competing for whose approach is best or who is more important. However, in change, we need to rely on one another to accomplish the objectives rather than compete for scarce resources.

No ingredient is more important than another when making bread. Neither can an organization exist without its departments all functioning. Until the perspective is changed that everyone is there to support each other and the organization, it’s likely that the change effort will struggle.

Understanding Not Agreement

A key miss when developing this shared sense of mission and mutual need is the belief that we need to agree with everyone else in the organization. That’s not required. All that’s required is a degree of understanding of the others’ perspectives and the awareness that their perspectives are valid – even if they don’t match ours.

This key also supports us when we’re working on resolving conflicts inside the organization. Too frequently, we get caught by the fact that we don’t agree and fail to work towards understanding. (See Conflict: The Importance of Acceptance for more.)


When we feel as if others don’t understand us and they won’t listen to us, it’s easy to fall into the trap of victimhood. (See Hostage at the Table for more on victimhood.) We all visit victimhood from time to time. The trick is to learn not to buy a house there. The more that we can help everyone learn how to recognize their role in the change process, the less concerned that we need to be about people making an offer on the house. We feel like victims when we believe we have no power and no voice in the conversation. Giving everyone a voice reduces the tendencies towards victimization.

In the end, managing change may be about learning how to use the existing forces and perspectives to your advantage so you can do some Managing at the Speed of Change.

Book Review-Reimagine Change: Escape Change Fatigue, Build Resilience, and Awaken Your Creative Brilliance

My work often feels like it’s strangely disconnected; however, Reimagine Change: Escape Change Fatigue, Build Resilience, and Awaken Your Creative Brilliance connects two aspects of my world. Aspect number one is the work on change management. (See Confident Change Management for more.) The second aspect is burnout. (See Extinguish Burnout for more.) They connect and intersect in the ability to engage and motivate people, though change requires an ability to get people unstuck from burnout.

Reimagine Change is odd in that it sits somewhere between personal change and self-help book and organizational change management. Most books end up solidly on one side or another, but this one is one part of each with no clear weighting to either side.

Change Advocates

“Leaders at all levels are now expected to assume the role of change advocate.” I don’t know that I’d qualify this as “now.” I think leaders have always needed to be the facilitator of change. Leaders are, after all, leading somewhere. I do, however, think that there’s a greater awareness of the need for leadership and how it’s separate from position and a distinct discipline from management.

Here, Burns’ work, Leadership, and Rost’s work, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century, help to articulate the difference between someone who manages and someone who truly leads. We’re left with little doubt that leaders are changing themselves, those that follow them, and their organizations daily.

6R Model

Reimagine Change is built around a 6R model:

  1. REALISE your reality
  2. RESPOND via your capability
  3. RECLAIM your brain
  4. REGENERATE your body
  5. RECODE your mind
  6. REIMAGINE your creativity

I don’t know that these six are fully explored in the book, but many of them are reminiscent of the teaching we do with Extinguish Burnout.


Perhaps the biggest challenge I had with Reimagine Change came from the lack of precision around what burnout is, how it works, and the role of stress. I’ll freely admit that we’ve developed a highly consistent view of how burnout works and what it is and isn’t. Our work here is informed by an understanding of the work around learned helplessness (see The Hope Circuit for more) and, importantly, Spolsky’s work in Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.

In short, stress is a payday loan. It’s short-term gain at the expense of long-term consequences. This necessarily reduces our long-term efficacy. This reduced efficacy makes us believe that we’re not making progress, which leads to learned helplessness and the feelings of inefficacy that characterize burnout.

When authors confuse stress (an indirect impact) as directly causal for burnout, I’m given great pause. While Lancaster is far from the only one to make this mistake, it’s concerning every time I see it.

Stressor Assessment

It’s concerning, because it fails to see the problem with enough clarity to enable folks to move forward. Consider, for a moment, stress itself. It’s considered a single thing, when, in reality, it’s not. We evaluate stressors for their probability and impact, and then we separately evaluate our capacity to overcome or mitigate the impacts of the stressor. The more resources we have directly or through our relationships, the less likely we are to see a stressor as stress inducing.

We experience stress when we’re concerned about our capacity to address the impact of a stressor. To be clear, it’s only when our capacity and the perceived impact are close that we develop a stress response. In cases like asteroids hitting the Earth, most of us don’t believe we have the resources to survive such a cataclysmic event, and therefore it rarely – if ever – creates stress for us.


What percentage of folks do you suppose are self-aware? Tasha Eurich is quoted as saying that 95% of people believe themselves to be self-aware when 10-15% of people actually are. Here, it’s tricky, because we’re all self-aware to some degree. We’re wired to have a self-perception of our body parts. It’s called proprioception, and it’s a part of us. More than that, we all know what colors and foods we like as well as a long list of things that we dislike.

The problem with such a broad-brush statement is that it’s treated as a binary response rather than the continuum that it is. I think a better statement would be that all of us should strive towards better self-awareness. This is something that even the Dalai Lama would agree is something that he works on. (See An Appeal to the World and The Dalai Lama’s Big Book of Happiness for more.)

Feelings Trump Facts

When it comes to who wins between the emotional elephant and the rational rider, it’s no contest. The rider believes they’re in control but discovers that the elephant gets its way when it really wants it. This is built on the elephant-rider-path metaphor that Jonathan Haidt first talked about in The Happiness Hypothesis and Dan and Chip Heath discussed in Switch.

The uptake of this is that our feelings, whether we like them or not, are really in control. If we want to make changes in our world, we’ve got to be willing to address our feelings as well as our thoughts.


Everyone has trauma in their lives. We can either let it define us or we can work through it and work towards healing. Books like Opening Up and The Body Keeps the Score help us to see how trauma may be a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

Maybe if you want to find a way to change from your current place of being, whether personally or professionally, it’s time to Reimagine Change.

Book Review-Making Sense of Change Management: A Complete Guide to the Models, Tools, and Techniques of Organizational Change

Change management and organizational change are a big topic area. However, for the most part it’s been a territory without a map. Few books have focused on cataloging the organizational change space and instead seek to promote their own perspective about what’s the most important. Making Sense of Change Management: A Complete Guide to the Models, Tools, and Techniques of Organizational Change is a good map of the space without the overt bias towards one approach over another. It’s by far the most comprehensive catalog of concepts related to change management and organizational change that I’ve seen assembled. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it means that the coverage depth is very shallow for any given topic. The authors, Esther Cameron and Mike Green, have opted to send you to the original authors and research rather than attempting to convey such a vast collection of knowledge.

Change Management Body of Knowledge

The Change Management Institute (CMI) published a Change Management Body of Knowledge. There was only one edition before they started referring folks to Making Sense of Change Management instead. That’s a powerful statement about the comprehensive nature of the work and the perception that it’s the authoritative place to get an overview of the industry.

It should be noted that CMI isn’t the final authority on change management. There’s also The Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) that is moving forward the profession. Their approach to change management, standards, and publications is different. ACMP publishes The Standard for Change Management©, which is a collection of processes and artifacts that they believe lead to good change management.

Like any process, it is better when executed in conjunction with skills. Making Sense of Change Management offers awareness of many skills that are helpful in the successful implementation of a change where The Standard provides no guidance.

However, the situation is reversed when it comes to the way the organizations approach training. ACMP certifies Qualified Education Providers (QEPs) to teach change management materials that lead to the Certified Change Management Professional (CCMP). The CMI has a sole contract with one company to deliver their change management training. I don’t like sole contracts, because they don’t invite innovation and improvement of the materials. However, this situation illustrates how both organizations are closed in some respects (ACMP on The Standard, CMI on training delivery) and open on others (ACMP on training delivery, and CMI on the skills necessary to be successful).

Scoping Change

Because the book is intended as an overview, there were very few topics with substantial detail. However, there were various clues as to frameworks to view change in. The organization of the chapters builds up from individual change through team change and ultimately to organizational change before describing how to lead change from a position of authority – and a position without authority. This aligns with the awareness that all changes that are accomplished in organizations comes through teams, and all team change comes from individual change.

Sometimes, when we take a leadership, planning view of change, we forget that all change is individual change. The organization can’t change without the actions of individual people that themselves are changing. Remembering that change comes from individuals is important, because the place that change falls apart most frequently is in motivating the individual behaviors of individuals.

Transactional or Transformational

Think about the successful leaders that you’ve known. Think about the great presidents who have stood out across time, the great civic leaders, the great CEOs. They’ve got one thing in common that’s not easy to see from their accomplishments. They all got something done but did different things in different ways. What we recognize as good leaders, however, isn’t their ability to execute transactions or to squeeze the extra penny out of the process.

What we recognize most about great leaders is their ability to transform the way that we think about something from one way to another. Steve Jobs made us think that you could be creative and use a computer. Abraham Lincoln had us thinking about the United States and slavery in a very different way. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told us about his dream, and in doing so, he changed what civil rights meant. It wasn’t about equality. It was about friendship, comradery, and community.

Great changes are forged from the same stuff. Great changes are not incremental changes that shave a few percentage points off the cost or incrementally increase revenue. Those change are, no doubt, needed. However, the great changes, the memorable changes, transform the way the organization sees itself and how it interacts with the world.

Any Route to Mindfulness

Sometimes people look to a technique, because they believe it will give them the reward they want. Mindfulness is one such technique that has been idealized for its ability to improve leadership. While some denounce the commercialization of such a personal and spiritual practice, as Thich Nhat Hanh explains, it doesn’t matter the intention if they are truly reaching mindfulness.

When incorrect intentions collide with practices, sometimes it’s the intentions that shift. Techniques like mindfulness expand the capacity of the mind – and no matter why or how people came to this technique, they’ll find themselves positively transformed if they’re willing to be true to the practice.


It’s not a single task or technique but rather a habit or demeanor that is the most powerful thing that influences change. The thing that influences change the most is something that Rosabeth Moss Kanter explained in The Change Masters. It’s persistence. There are several analogies and stories that can be used, like the consideration that the Grand Canyon was dug slowly by the Colorado River. We tend to want to do change when it’s easy – but it’s rarely (if ever) easy.

We all want to think about change as easier than it is. We want it to not take as much energy. Like good leadership, our ability to accomplish change is only truly seen when the going gets tough and we’ve got to persevere through the hard times.

The Pain of Staying the Same and the Pain of Change

Having worked with addicts whose lives is falling apart, I’ve learned a simple truth about change – all change. That is the pain of changing must be less than (or appear less than) the pain of staying the same. It’s not possible to get someone to change who doesn’t see some pain in their current situation. (If you want to learn more about my journey with helping addicts, you’ll find more hints in Chasing the Scream and Dreamland.) The good news is that for everyone the pain they’re currently experiencing can be the fear of future negative consequences. Robert Sapolsky in Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers explains how we’ve subsumed the stress response and can use it to drive future fear into the present.

One of the most challenging things about change is helping everyone in the organization understand how their current state is more painful than the change that you’re asking them to embark on. Sometimes that’s done by understating the effort of the change – consciously or unconsciously. A better approach is to help everyone understand the pain of the way they’re doing things now.

This isn’t always as easy as it seems. 70 years ago, there was no such thing as a microwave. When the Radarange microwave was released, people couldn’t imagine why you would want it. Why would you sacrifice taste and tenderness to be able to cook things without a stove? Today, no kitchen is complete without one. To achieve the change, it’s necessary to help people see the benefits of a solution that they don’t fully understand.

Change Emerging from Conditions

As broad a set of change management practices and perspectives as Making Sense of Change Management offers, there is no hidden secret. There’s no magic incantation that will result in a successful change in every condition. Instead, there’s the wisdom of David Bohm that things emerge. (See On Dialogue.) We can’t cause change to be successful. What we can do is create the conditions that favor success.

While it’s convenient and comforting to think in terms of direct cause and effect, this obscures the truth that there is rarely a single condition that leads to a result. Instead, we find ourselves looking at several factors that all lined up to create the success or failure. To simplify a change to a single technique or person that created the success or failure is an oversimplification that doesn’t help us be successful more frequently.

Change is Learning

All change is learning. It’s learning a new way of doing things. It’s a new set of behaviors, and those new behaviors are encouraged by knowing why a different approach might be better. Everett Rogers observed in The Diffusion of Innovations that it was the most cosmopolitan of farmers who first realized the value of a new technique and were therefore the most likely to adopt it.

Ed Schein believes that the critical task is to help people through the learning process. That is, we need to make the learning process easier, so that they can make the transition easier. This is at the heart of The SharePoint Shepherd’s Guide for End Users that I wrote back in 2008. I wrote it to make it easier to learn Microsoft SharePoint – at a time when it was very difficult to find any training for end users. By making the process easier for end users to learn, I made it easier for organizations to transition to SharePoint.

I should insert an asterisk here and say that Schein is only mostly right. It’s not that you must help people through the learning process, it’s that you must help them be able to more easily perform the desired behavior. In other words, learning isn’t the end goal, it’s simply a means to an end. The other approach is to provide someone with a performance aid so that they don’t have to remember. (See Job Aids and Performance Support for more.) The truth is that The SharePoint Shepherd’s Guide sat in the middle. We didn’t care if you learned SharePoint – we wanted you to be able to do things with SharePoint.


Change brings anxiety. Most people don’t understand what anxiety is. It’s simply fear without a specific target. If you know what you’re afraid of, you have fear. If you’re not sure what you’re afraid of exactly, you have anxiety. The difference is in your belief that you can anticipate the kinds of problems that you’ll encounter. If you feel as if you’re able to predict the threats that will be a problem for you, then you’ll have fear of them.

The challenge with anxiety is that you can’t fix anxiety. There’s no specific thing to go address, mitigate, examine, or work on. You just have a sense that your world can be turned upside down at any moment. This is what most people feel like in corporate or organizational change. They didn’t know it was coming, they didn’t have any input in the process, and they don’t know where it’s heading.

There are two ways to combat the natural anxiety that comes with change. The first is to continue to develop and reinforce everyone’s sense of personal agency, their ability to get things done, and to cope with changes. The second way is to continue to communicate completely and effectively. The more people realize that you’re telling them the whole truth, as you understand it, the more they begin to trust that they’ll know about a problem before it’s too late and there will be others who will be there to help them. The net effect is less anxiety – and therefore less resistance to the change.


If there’s one place to end a book that is a survey of the kinds of skills that change managers and change agents need, it’s clarity. While the book itself lacks some clarity on the exact tools and skills that you should use to implement change in your organization, it is clear that the clarity that you can create about your change in the organization is a powerful lever that can be used to move the change forward.

Clarity seems like it’s an easy thing, but time and time again, we realize that getting to clarity isn’t quick. However, once you’ve reached clarity, it makes the communication and engagement process easy. Einstein is reported to have said that if he had an hour to work on a problem, he’d spend 55 minutes understanding the problem and 5 minutes trying to solve it.

Create clarity about what you need to do by reading Making Sense of Change Management – so that you can understand clearly the change that you want to create.