Kotter introduces Accelerate

I’m excited to share with you a recent video from John Kotter describing his Accelerate model and why it is desperately needed today.

I’ve been privileged to lead a transformational change group leveraging this model for the past six years.  It works. It’s amazing.  I’m glad the world is finally getting a chance to see it.

Enjoy the video and please leave comments on the You Tube site, especially with your stories about how this model has changed your life if you’ve been part of that 0.001%.  Kotter will love to hear from you. The world needs to hear from you. Why not share?

http://youtu.be/Pc7EVXnF2aI

 

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This is hard

Did you know that writing a blog is hard? It is…sometimes anyway.

Tonight I wrote two posts that  just weren’t good enough to give to you yet.

Now what do I do, when my mind is wrung out and when I don’t want to think about change and organizations and frustrations and joys for a few small hours between putting my kids to bed, writing this post, sleeping, and waking up to do it all again tomorrow?

I think I’ll encourage you to be curious about one thing this weekend.  Maybe you’ll be curious about more than one, but make sure it is at least one.

Maybe you don’t see yourself as the curious sort, but try to will yourself into being of that sort for a brief weekend.

Turn over some rock and see what bugs crawl out.  Flip open some book or magazine and see what idea sticks to the front of your brain.  Talk to one person (either a new person or a familiar person in a new way).  Let your fascination mind lead, if only for a little while. I wish you a happy journey as you follow it along.

On that note:

Fair winds and following seas to Rear Admiral (RDML) Mark Whitney as he departs Bremerton upon completing his tour as Commander, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS & IMF).  Soon, he moves on to a position in the Naval Sea Systems Command back in Washington, DC.

As clear as it was yesterday, I can remember standing in his old office back in the Washington Navy Yard.  It was early 2007 and he hadn’t yet received orders to report to PSNS & IMF for command.  Together we talked about the grand possibilities of a command tour and what leading from the field would look like.   For the last four years, it was my honor to sit near and watch RDML Whitney lead from the field and play a small role in making that time memorable for him.  (See the photo below of him with Dr. Kotter – a highlight moment in 2010.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As he transitions to his new duties, he’s got lots of road ahead of him.  I know he’ll drive a lot of change and we’ll all be better for it.

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Your time has come

Ahead of one’s time: Fig. having ideas or attitudes that are too advanced to be acceptable in the present.: – so says the idioms portion of thefreedictionary.com

I’ve blogged about time a lot here at Engine For Change. In fact, of the 418 posts, 181 contain some reference to time.  That’s 43%.

Yet, I don’t seem to have touched on the true, twitch-inducing, frustration-generating power of first being ahead of your time and then being forgotten in the moment.

When you are driving change, often you’ll try and fail or try and succeed at things that your organization will hardly notice for years.

Then, years (or decades) later, when the organization catches up, you’ll watch as person after person shows you the shiny new thing they found.

You’ll know its not new at all (you were the organization’s expert at Solution A in 2004), but they are right that it is new to them now in 2012.  Often, the fact that it is new to them is all that matters).

In these moments where the organization catches up to and discovers a place you’ve already been, maybe you’ll want to gloat.  Okay, but don’t gloat for long.

Instead, celebrate their find, encourage them to find the best places/concepts/details within their new find, and then challenge them to drive change with all their new energy.

Yes, you were ahead of your time.  Noted.  Now, your time has come so let’s get to driving some change.

 

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Winning joyfully

You haven’t really lived John Kotter’s 8 steps for leading change until you’ve experienced Step 6: Generating Short Term Wins.

If you haven’t experienced it, let me share a bit of what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like.

You open your e-mail to find your inbox a buzz with messages darting back and forth among a team.  Unlike the typical team e-mails of deadlines, frustrations, and finger pointing, these team members are debriefing–quite happily–the launch of their program from the day before.  As each e-mail comes in you see more exclamation points, and they are exclamation points of true excitement, used to set off real exclamations of joy.  I love those e-mails.

You hear the wins in the way their voices light up as they talk about what they accomplished, how they can do even better next time, and even what didn’t work that can be corrected.  The atmosphere is open, people are supportive and the culture of mutual support rings out through their voices.

You feel the win because you can sense that this is a place you want to be, to stay, to be a part of.  You can feel the team drawing closer together as they talk about how to go after their next win.  They want the feeling again that they had yesterday, the feeling of a purpose fulfilled.

Winning joyfully isn’t the first step though.  It is the culmination of the earlier five steps (Acting with Urgency, Developing the Guiding Coalition, Developing a Change Vision, Communicating the Vision, and Empowering Broad Based Action).

If you drive change, you too can rapidly progress through those early steps and explode toward your own joyful wins.  All you need to do is:

1. Create the  urgency inside yourself to create the change,

2. Share your urgency with others who will then voluntarily join your cause,

3.  Create a vision with them (e.g., By October we will have done…),

4.  Share that vision with the people you need working with you and supporting you, and

5.  Start acting–do something!–to bring about that vision and ultimately get your own joyful win.

It is possible.

I’ve seen teams of every level in an organization and in organizations of all types follow this pattern and create their own joyful wins.

I bet you can too.

Why not try?

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Empowering the Leading Edge

In March, while visiting, Dr. Kotter said,

For someone who roams around the world and has hundreds of companies, universities and the government, there are some things going on [at PSNS & IMF] that are on the leading edge…If you don’t know about them, you’ve got to figure it out; find it. And, if you have been involved, you can pat yourself on the back.”

Since March, I’ve noticed that the Kotter International site’s descriptions of the 8-steps have changed, reflecting more of the PSNS & IMF method for making the 8-steps work.

Today I submitted an end of year report (we use a fiscal year calendar) to an amazing group of leaders capturing all their success over the past year.  I’d like to think their year of work influenced how Dr. Kotter wrote the “step 5: empower action” section of the Buy-In appendix.  He wrote:

People who buy into a vision look for ways to help the change effort without being instructed.  But they almost inevitably run into some obstacles.  The obstacles take many, many forms: bosses who haven’t bought in; IT systems not capable of supporting the strategies; lack of the skills needed to make the vision a reality; a lack of training to develop these missing skills.  The guiding coalition finds way to eliminate these obstacles, empowering people to do what they want and what the change effort requires.

Those of you who read this blog and work with those leaders know this describes exactly what they do every day.

The work those leaders did in the past year truly pushed the PSNS & IMF method out onto that leading edge, showing us how to generate successful change over and over again.

It sure is fun to live on the leading edge!

Now I’m wondering; do you want to join us there?

Yes?

Then what are you waiting for? That’s not a rehtorical question.

I’m really curious what you’re waiting for.  Post a comment and let me know.

Maybe we can get you past whatever your obstacle is together.

Why not try?  The world needs your change.

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The One Man Show

Think back to the last few times you’ve found out about a problem at work.  Which of these statements did you hear:

Option 1: We’ve assigned a team to fix the problem
Option 2: We’ve found volunteers who’ve formed a team to fix the problem
Option 3: We’ve assigned a person to fix the problem
Option 2: We’ve found a volunteer to fix the problem

I’m guessing that you’ve heard Option 1 most often: “We’ve assigned a team to fix the problem.”.  The assigned team concept seems to dominate most problem solving in large organizations.   If assigned teams dominate the problem fixing landscape then you would assume that they create the best results in fixing problems.  Do they?  Nope.  You can choose your source, but many say only two in ten change efforts succeed and I bet if you looked at the raw data you’d find most of those eight failing teams were all of the “we’ve assigned a team to fix the problem,” variety.

Now recently I’ve had experience with Option 2: “We’ve found volunteers who’ve formed a team to fix the problem.”  This is the Guiding Coalition method I’ve blogged a lot about.  It’s a useful method for wide classes of problems; yet even it seems to have its limitations.  For example, if you team every problem then you end up with a lot of teams; when the membership of these teams often overlaps you create individuals as constraints for multiple teams.  Another limitation of the volunteer teams method is the sheer number of people you must have, regardless of personnel overlap, to create multiple teams.  If you don’t just apply these ideas to businesses and include volunteer organizations, they often have very few volunteers to handle very many tasks. A team for each task is impossible.

We still have two options left.  Which is best of those two for achieving success?  It’s no contest; one is miserable to watch and the other is an overlooked gem.

I’ve rarely seen Option 3 work: “We’ve assigned a person to fix the problem.”  In my observations, the task is doomed from the assigned person’s first action. Most often their first action is: Delegate the task to subordinates.  What’s funny is those subordinates most often turn around and create their own Option 1 team of assigned people to fix the problem.  This new Option 1 team buried under Option 3 is a team more powerless and lacking of personal commitment than the worst purely Option 1 team.  These sad teams often encounter their first obstacle, stop, wait to see if anyone notices, then evaporate.

Today I’m fascinated by the practical workings of Option 4, “We’ve found a volunteer to fix the problem.”  My fascination was sparked last night as I attended a volunteer community group’s board meeting.  Half way through the meeting an appointed officer asked for the floor.  He told the board that he would love to stay on in his appointed position for another year, but he had a condition.  His condition was that he would not have a committee to assist him in his duties; he was going to be a one man show or nothing.  He didn’t offer this condition as a threat and there was no malice in his voice.  His condition was borne of knowing how he works best (he mentioned how he prefers to do his tasks sometimes late into the night or on breaks from his busy travel schedule) and breaking free of the burdens of scheduling committee meetings and coordinating others.  Those latter tasks were tasks he didn’t enjoy and he didn’t feel they were benefiting him or the community group.  You couldn’t argue with his results as the treasurer’s report showed money flowing into the organization (he’s chair of fund raising) and the board obviously appreciated his work by praising him often during the meeting.  Acting without a committee, he was proving to be a more than successful member of their team.

I’ve included all these details of his story because the detail shows you the burden of proof he put on himself to justify his “one man show” condition.  Desiring to work independently on a project is a rational position (i.e., allow me the fullest flexibility to play to my strengths and control my schedule while I commit to this duty I’ve accepted freely) yet this rational position, Option 4, is rarely taken.  Why? It shouldn’t require such a burden to prove it is a worthy choice of the four options.

Now what can you do armed with knowledge of these four options and aided by your own observations of their successes and failures (plus my two cents thrown on top)?  Next time you have a problem:

If you have enough people, try Option 2: We’ve found volunteers who’ve formed a team to fix the problem.

Then try Option 4, “We’ve found a volunteer to fix the problem,” and help them whenever they ask.

If you must, use only the purest form of Option 1, “We’ve assigned a team to fix the problem,” but look for passionate volunteers to add to their ranks as soon as you can.

And only if you don’t care if the problem ever gets solved, try Option 3, “We’ve assigned a person to fix the problem.

Pick a different option and see if your results improve. If you believe the research and your own observations, when you use Options 1 and 3, only one in five problems get fixed.

With those odds there’s a big upside to trying Options 2 and 4  if you’re just willing to change who you send out to fix the problem.

In the end it’s up to you, but why not try something different?

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5 Steps to Save A Transformation from the Incremental Monsters

I slumped in my chair, closed my eyes and sighed under my breath, “Ugh!”

What else can you say when you watch a truly urgent plea for transformation closely followed by a detailed paper directing the recipients to perform typical incremental improvement behavior?

What can you do when a valiant call for new, purposeful action is weighed down under words urging you to wait until the teleconference, or next meeting, or some later date to report your thoughts (not your actions, your plans, your true passion…nope, just your thoughts)?

You could hire Kotter International.  According to Dr. John Kotter, quoted in a recent Business Wire article,

All around us, change is accelerating, but our ability to lead change hasn’t kept pace. Managers are trained to make incremental, programmatic improvements. They aren’t trained to lead large-scale change. Kotter International is about leading large-scale change, not just managing it.”

When you know where to look, you’ll start to find too many examples in your daily life where people plea for transformation and demand incremental change.

The church council knows it has an aging population and a negative bank account, but its congregation is happy to wait another month to consider all options before acting.  Transformation meets an incremental monster.

The volunteer group’s strategic planning session paints a lofty vision of their impact on their community, then they bicker over how to structure their strategic planning meeting minutes, never starting the strategic change.  Transformation eaten by the incremental monster.

The organization that has a true need to transform from one century to the century beyond next, bogs down early in wishes to discuss the group’s thoughts in incremental meetings with elaborate action approval processes (never written down of course).  Transformation dead before it even meets the incremental monster.

Perhaps I’m venting to much..what was my point again?  Oh, yes.

For someone passionate about driving change, a world in need of transformation but plagued with incremental action can be maddening, but there are at least five ways out of the incremental monster’s lair.

1.  Refuse to be incremental.  Someone once told me he was fiercely committed to always being rigidly flexible in the service of his goals.  Take his advice and be rigidly flexible regarding your transformation.  You’ll be driving change: acknowledging the concerns of those you pass, but not stopping to convince them to come with you.  You’ll just keep going.  Someday they’ll join along.  Sure, they’ll make faster progress because you’ve blazed the trail for them to follow, but you’re not in competition with them; you’re in pursuit of your transformation.

2.  Offer the transformation option.  If you’re not the one in charge (and no matter the organization, you’re rarely the one in charge), try offering transformation to the powers in control.  And, offer transformation with your promise to work hard along side them on the transformation.  Offer your service to the congregation, to the volunteer board, to the bureaucratic organization. You’ll be putting yourself out there, but it’ll be worth it, even if they don’t accept your offer.  Why? Because after you make the suggestion of transformation they can’t honestly say they didn’t know transformation was an option. And if they try to crush you after you willingly offered to be a servant to their transformation then you know exactly the type of people you are working with (and I’d recommend for your sanity you try to work elsewhere).  See. Either way you learned something essential to driving your change.

3.  Let others choose the transformation for themselves.  You’re likely right in the transformation you’re suggesting.  Being right doesn’t matter.  Unless you truly have the power to compel people’s passions and minds into your service (and I doubt you do even with the best of power structures), if you force them along with you you’re going to kill in them exactly what you need alive to make your transformation successful.  When they’re journeying with you, they’ll need to be thinking, breathing, feeling members of your transformation.  Indentured servants and beaten serfs rarely produce the genius required to keep a transformation moving.

4.  Give them hope in the transformation.  People fear the unknown (how cliche’ but true) and they’ll worry the journey to the transformation will be rough.  Why not just admit to them it will be?  “Yep.  This will probably be the hardest thing you ever do.  And, because it’s the hardest, it will likely be the most fulfilling.”  Pick your point on the horizon, your transformation.  Tell them you’re setting your course that way, ready for what the road brings you, confident you’ll get there in due time and you’d love for them to join you. Say that and mean it. Then, set out and see what happens.  Give them some hope both for the end and for the journey and you’ll be surprised who joins you.

5.  Measure something new.  If you work for transformation and all the signs (the metrics, the dollar figures, the graphs, the charts, the meeting and the status symbols) remain the same as the old route, you’re not helping anyone.   Keeping the old is the incremental change trap.  Break free by admitting up front that you’ll have to leave some of those signs behind.  When we travel cross country in the U.S. we can be sure that the sign that says California will shift to one that says Nebraska then Illinois then New York, but all the signs are in English.  The words are different, but the language the same.  Do the same thing with the numbers, the figures, the praised and rewarded facts.  Bring enough of the old, but tailor it first for the new.

Maybe I’m rambling after a long weekend away and a busy day catching up.  Maybe I’m making sense.  The point of the five steps is to give you confidence that there are some quick, specific ways of acting that will help you in turning a plea for transformation into actual transformation instead of a pit of incremental monster mud.

To recap:

1. Refuse to be incremental.

2. Offer transformation.

3. Let them choose.

4. Give them hope.

5. Change the measures.

Or, you can skip my ramblings and hire Kotter International. Either way, keep driving change.

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Claim small wins

Today I read a story about Gallup’s new book about the quest for personal happiness, Well Being: The Five Essential Elements.

In the book, Tom Rath and James K. Harter share Gallup’s worldwide research on personal wellbeing, reducing the extensive data to five broad categories:

  1. Career Wellbeing
  2. Social Wellbeing
  3. Financial Wellbeing
  4. Physical Wellbeing
  5. Community Wellbeing

In a teaser story from Gallup Management Journal, under the section heading, Working against our own best interests, the authors explain how their data showed that people often fail at changing their behaviors, even when their long term interests are destroyed by their choices today.

To help you generate that long term wellbeing you seek, the author’s encourage you to  look at today’s decisions not as consequential to your long range goals, but rather as having a real, profound impact on you today. The example they offer is:

…we’re more likely to skip a cheeseburger and fries not when we ponder the long-term risk of obesity or diabetes, but when we consider the short-term reality that devouring it will lead to a “high-fat hangover” that ruins the rest of the day. Or we might choose to exercise tomorrow morning because we know that just 20 minutes of activity can boost our mood for the next 12 hours.

Gallup, using their extensive research, seems to me to have made the case, yet again, for the validity of John Kotter’s Leading Change Step 6: Generating Short Term Wins.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight or remake a company culture, when you tie small successes today with your long term goals and let people (or yourself) win today and win often, you’ll build momentum.

The research, the data and experience prove it’s true.

Kotter believes it. Gallup believes it.  I believe it.

Will you believe it?

Will you create some wins today?

Why not try?

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It could take a decade

Not all changes take a decade, but some do.

Today, Maria Finch (a thoroughly amazing woman) and I accepted YWCA Women of Achievement Awards for our work as Child Care Network co-leads.

What’s that mean?

We were the 2009 leaders of a fabulous team of women and men committed to expanded child care in our area.  Our big success was a contract for a more than $4 million child care center, set to open in January 2011.

January 2011 marks six months shy of a decade since I first inquired about what it would take to get a new child care center close to our workplace. Elaine still tells the story of the sad look on my face when she had to tell me, “Oh, sweety! We don’t have a child care center here.”

Why’d it take a decade?

Some say the timing wasn’t right before.  I can’t disagree with all of that claim.

But, I think the controlling factor was that in the intervening decade, an entire group of passionate people, inside and outside of our organization, learned and practiced how to skillfully drive change.

A few years ago, when the project really gained momentum, we directed our efforts not to forcing someone to open a center, but instead poured all our energy into removing one roadblock after another that stood between us and the center we wanted.

We made connections, gathered the data, made our case, poured over the details, kept the positive pressure on, celebrated all the small wins, and won people to our side.

Maybe your change will take a decade.  Maybe it will take longer.

Are you willing to drive until you get to your destination?

Why not try?

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