Making Sense of Change

I spent last week pondering the Cynefin Framework, Sunday discussing it and tonight watching videos about it.  Why should you care?  Because driving change is about seeing a problem or opportunity and proposing a solution or a direction toward a solution for that problem/opportunity.  The Cynefin Framework, as a sense-making model, provides you a way to test your perception of the problem/opportunity and solutions.

Your success driving change depends on how you see that problem and that solution relative to what the problem and solution really are.

The videos at the Cognitive Edge You Tube channel are excellent introductions to the framework.  Thank you to Dave Snowden for posting the videos.

Now I’m going to give you an assignment.  It’s up to you to choose to accept it or reject it.

Part 1: Watch the videos.

Part 2: Share your thoughts on how you think the framework applies to the change you’re driving.

Cynefin Framework (8:38): I especially like the point at 6:39 where the Simple/Chaotic boundary cliff is explained. In many organizations that cliff is closer and larger than the people think.

How to Organise and Child’s Party (2:59): Hilarious and true. I’ve used the amplify beneficial behaviors and dampen negative behaviors recommendations a lot while driving change.

Longitude (6:09): Important for all experts to watch, especially those pesky engineers who want everything to be solved with more analysis.

For more videos, including one about Apollo 13 and innovation, check out the Cognitive Edge You Tube channel then visit cognitive-edge.com.

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Link Fuel

Regularly I recharge my change driving batteries by sampling the delightful links my friends send me.

As I prepared for the long holiday weekend–Happy 4th of July by the way!–I thought, “Why not offer up some link fuel for my Engine for Change friends?”  Enjoy!

Charles Green reveals the silly secrets of strategy in You Too Can Be a Strategy Consultant.  Don’t get fooled by a strategy hack again. [Nancy – Thanks for the link.]

Rogue Polymath has been busy clarifying our minds with several Thinking Thursday posts.  Enjoy Murphy’s Law, Inductive and Deductive ReasoningEdward Tufte – Supergraphic and Abilene Paradox.

RSA Animate offers an excellent 10 minute video illustration of Daniel Pink‘s Drive.

If you can’t avoid using PowerPoint slides in your work Seth Godin offers his 200 Slide Solution, Toastmasters International’s magazine introduces us to Pecha Kucha in What is Pecha Kucha? and Captain Joe Bradley would tell you to improve your presentation using an Assertion and Evidence format (see my old professor Michael Alley’s Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides).  If you want to be great at presentations, PowerPoint or not, buy Tufte’s The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within. The booklet is only $7 and reading it will change the way you produce and absorb all PowerPoint presentations.

Well, I feel recharged.  Do you?

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So what if you’re right?

It doesn’t matter if you’re right.

It doesn’t matter if the change you’re proposing is the exact thing your organization needs to do to thrive or even survive.

If you can’t get anyone to listen to you or anyone to implement the change, no one will ever know you were right.

Driving change is about linking up the right change with the ability to bring about the change.

Driving change is perceived to take longer than driving people, but I don’t think it takes longer.

Why?

Because driving people seems faster (I order them to do it today and they do it today) but never works for long.

I’ll take success at the pace it comes over failing to implement.

As Seth Godin says, it isn’t about what you make, it’s about what you ship.

And, in changing organizations, shipping is implementing.

So when you’re thinking about driving people to get to your right answer faster, remember:

So what if you’re right?

Then drive change.

Why not try?

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Book Review: Creating Contagious Commitment

Today I’m excited to post my review of Andrea Shapiro’s second edition of Creating Contagious Commitment.

In 2005 I started my journey through organizational change, with the first edition of Andrea Shapiro’s Creating Contagious Commitment: Applying the Tipping Point to Organizational Change as my implementer’s guide to successful change.  Since 2005 I’ve learned a lot of lessons of what works–and what doesn’t–when driving change.  I’m excited to say the second edition of Creating Contagious Commitment captures and amplifies many of those lessons.

Believe Andrea when she says she wants to help you successfully implement your organization change initiatives.  In my experience, Andrea lives up to her claim that her framework is “general enough to be applied to many initiatives and many organizations and specific enough for action planning.”

The book’s structure with logical chapters, clarifying diagrams and detailed chapter summaries makes it an accessible daily resource while you’re implementing change.  If you start to feel your change’s momentum slowing, turn to Creating Contagious Commitment to find successful change truths  (e.g., pay attention to the people side of change),  organizational system change responses and  explanations of the people of and levers for change. 

Whether you’re an experienced change agent or a novice, you’ll achieve more success with Andrea Shapiro’s Creating Contagious Commitment by your side. 

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Sec Def speaks out for driving change

Whether you read the Air Force Academy or Naval Academy versions of the speech, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is asking cadets and midshipmen to drive change.

In his remarks, Secretary Gates encouraged our future military leaders to:

  • Learn from the experiences and the setbacks of the past;
  • Be open to ideas and inspiration from wherever they come;
  • Overcome conventional wisdom and the bureaucratic obstacles thrown in your path; and
  • Be candid and speak truth to power.

I’m cheered by the presence of both speeches because they let me highlight two of my favorite change drivers, Admiral Rickover and Colonel Boyd.  Let’s turn to Secretary Gates’ comments on each.

Few graduates of this institution were as brilliant, iconoclastic, and as, difficult as Hyman Rickover. He demanded efficiency and he hated waste in all forms, he was a person who first pilfered and then horded the little bars of soap from airline and hotel bathrooms. When interviewing young officers, he used to cut the legs of chairs short to see whether or not the interviewee could remain seated – not a technique that will endear you to your future subordinates.
In the 1950s the conventional wisdom was the nuclear reactors were too bulky and dangerous to put on submarines – diesel would have to do. It was through Rickover’s genius and tenacity that these objections were overcome, producing a submarine fleet that included the most stealthy and feared leg of America’s nuclear triad. Rickover was a stickler for safety in all phases of submarine production and operations – and because of that he was even accused letting us fall behind the Soviets. But he had the vision to see that even one nuclear disaster might well kill the program altogether. And his legacy is that to this day, there has never been a nuclear failure in an American submarine.
There is also the story of John Boyd – a brilliant, eccentric, stubborn, and frequently profane character who was the bane of the Air Force establishment for decades.  As with Mitchell, tact wasn’t Boyd’s strong suit – and he certainly shouldn’t be used as a model for military bearing or courtesy. After all, this is a guy who once lit a general on fire with his cigar.

As a 30-year-old captain, he rewrote the manual for air-to-air combat and earned the nickname “40-second” Boyd for the time it took him to win a dogfight. Boyd and the reformers he inspired would later go on to design and advocate for the F-16 and the A-10.  After retiring, he developed the principals of maneuver warfare that were credited by a former Marine Corps commandant and a secretary of defense for the lightning victory of the first Gulf War…

Whether in those moments where you must make that split-second, singular decision, or over the longer-term as you build your career, I’d return to something John Boyd used said to his colleagues and subordinates that is worth sharing with you.  He said that one day you will come to a fork in the road.  “You’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.  If you go one way, you can be somebody.  You’ll have to make compromises and you’ll have to turn your back on your friends.  But you’ll be a member of the club and you will get promoted and get good assignments.  Or you can go the other way and you can do something – something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself . . . If you decide to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get good assignments and you certainly won’t be a favorite of your superiors.  But you won’t have to compromise yourself . . . To be somebody or to do something.  In life there is often a roll call.  That’s when you have to make a decision.  To be or to do?”

Here at the Air Force Academy, as with every university and company in America, there’s a focus on teamwork, consensus-building, and collaboration. Yet make no mistake, the time will come for each of you when you must stand alone in making a difficult, unpopular decision; when you must challenge the opinion of superiors or tell them that you can’t get the job done with the time and resources available; or when you will know that what superiors are telling the press or the Congress or the American people is inaccurate. There will be moments when your entire career is at risk – where you will face Boyd’s proverbial fork in the road. To be or to do.
To be ready for that moment, you must have the discipline to cultivate integrity and moral courage from here at the Academy, and then from your earliest days as a commissioned officer. Those qualities do not suddenly emerge fully developed overnight or as a revelation after you have assumed important responsibilities. These qualities have their roots in the small decisions you will make here and early in your career and must be strengthened all along the way to allow you to resist the temptation of self before service. And you must always ensure that your moral courage serves the greater good: that it serves what is best for the nation and our highest values – not a particular program nor pride nor parochialism.
For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services, and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism.  I urge you instead to be principled, creative, and reform-minded – to be leaders of integrity who, as Boyd put it, want to do something, not be somebody.

But for my childhood asthma I’d be an Air Force Academy grad.  If not for a whim of fate–and the keen eye of Dave Doerr selecting me out of a pile of resumes–I’d not have worked in Admiral Rickover’s program.

Admiral Rickover and Colonel Boyd have taught me to choose to do something.

I choose to drive change.

How about you?

Are you up for doing something?

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Real Progress

When you’re driving change, you may be drawn into conversations about what progress you are making.  Whenever I’m discussing (or thinking about) progress I try to keep this C.S. Lewis quote swirling in my head:

But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be.  And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.  If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

How can you know you’re making real progress?

For me, I get a feeling, a thought, an external indication that all I’m doing is making a bad thing work better; I know I’m not creating a real good.  When I get that thought, feeling or indication, it takes all my will to stop moving forward.

But, as I slow, stop and turn toward the right road, I start to feel, think, notice that the indications are back in my favor and I’m back on course to drive change toward the place I want to be.

Example: In an earlier post I mentioned the battle I waged between overtime and throughput.  Improving the application of overtime was progress down the wrong road.  Advocating for throughput goals (and the application of overtime only to enable the throughput goals) was the right road.  It took all my strength to slow, turn and restart that engine, but choosing the right road made the difference.

You can do it.  You can create real progress.  Are you willing to try?

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Improvement is doubly possible

When you’re driving change, you’ll want to remember this quote:

Improvement is doubly difficult when individual habit is reinforced by group inertia.

It comes from the Navy Correspondence Manual and it’s referring to writing official letters, memos and recommendations.  But, to me it means so much more.

Say you’re the first person in your work team, civic organization or company that chooses to drive change instead of drive people to change. Will it be easy to drive change?

No.

Will you feel pulled by the behavior of others around you to stop focusing on wins and removing obstacles and instead spend meeting after meeting blaming those “others” who won’t change?

Yes.

But, just because it is doubly difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Some days it’ll feel like a solo battle and others there will be an army (no Navy disrespect intended) with you.

Try instead this affirmation:

Improvement is doubly possible when individual habit shows the group where new inertia will lead them.

Be the new inertia.  Show the others around you what’s possible.

Write better if you like (Chapter 3 of the Correspondence Manual is a great place to start).

Drive change if you’re willing.

You’ll love both…I promise!

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My “Leading Change” Story

Tomorrow Professor John Kotter visits my workplace, to see how successful we’ve become at using his model to create real, lasting change.  (link to the press release) Today I found Rogue Polymath’s post about what reading Leading Change did for him, and his post prompted me to write “My Leading Change Story.”

I can’t remember how I found the book (and that’s odd because I can usually tell you exactly how I found each book on my shelf) but I first read Leading Change in 2005.

I had just entered a newly created position as the Theory of Constraints Project Engineer for a more than 700 person department.   My job: Implement Theory of Constraints principles throughout the department.  I had a huge job on my hands, lots of idealism and very little experience in change management; I needed help.

Then, somehow, I found Leading Change.  I read it, loved it and in my excitement promptly formed my own Guiding Coalition.  I recruited deputies from each area of the department to serve, I set up meeting, worked on a vision and people came to my Guiding Coalition…for a while.

My Guiding Coalition members, rightly, lost interest in spending their limited time listening to me tell them how to make my change.  I hadn’t built the sense of urgency.  I’d jumped straight to the Guiding Coalition, ignored a vision other than my own, refused to empower people and never captured a single win for them.  I had tried to drive people and driving people never works for long.  I learned that lesson hard.

My first attempt at Leading Change was such a huge failure I should say it again:

My first attempt at Leading Change was a huge failure.

Why did I fail? I hadn’t followed the model.  I hadn’t built a sense of urgency.  I didn’t yet understand how to make it work (i.e., the difference between driving people and driving change).

In 2007, on my second try at Leading Change, I had the opportunity to work with the newly formed command Guiding Coalition.  In that group I found people who’d brought their own sense of urgency with them to every meeting.  They’d applies to be there and were grateful for the opportunity to lead change.

What a difference their inner energy made!

They were coming to the Guiding Coalition not because they “had to” but because they “got to.”  They were focused and ready to drive change, and they immediately started to make a difference.

In my years with our Guiding Coalition, I’ve had the privilege to learn:

  • what it looks like when you’ve created a compelling vision and communicated that vision well
  • what if feels like to empower others to take action and then capture, celebrate and consolidate their wins
  • and what is means to everyone involved and everyone affected when you embed the successes in the culture.

Everyone who’s been a part of our Leading Change journey should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished.

I know I’m proud to be associated with all of them.

Let’s keep driving change by Leading Change.  Who’s with me?

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Quote of the Week

C.S. Lewis said,

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

When you’re driving people to change, your best intentioned coercion is still coercion.

Are you being a tyrant about your change?

Why not try changing your focus to enabling the change (instead of enforcing it) and see what happens?

Experience tells me you’ll be more successful with your change.   At minimum, at least you won’t be a tyrant anymore.

Unless you like being a tyrant. Do you?

If you do, why are you reading this blog?

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Do you fear success?

Part of driving change is overcoming your fear of failing and especially overcoming your fear of succeeding.

What if the change you’re driving actually happens?

What if pushing your limits creates an exciting opportunity to achieve even more success?

What would you do?

Theodore Roosevelt said,

There were all kinds of things I was afraid of at first…but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid.”

Tonight I overcame my fear and submitted an abstract for the upcoming Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization (TOCICO) conference. I hit the “submit” button about an hour ago.

Between loading my abstract and hitting the “submit” button, I sat at my computer for a while, honestly afraid.

But I wasn’t afraid of being rejected; I was afraid of being accepted.

What if they pick me? What if they want to hear about driving change? What then?

You’re reading this personal story because if you’re driving change you’ll encounter more than a few times when fear of success will overtake you.

What if your plan works?

What if their problem goes away?

What if everyone’s lives actually get better?

Too often we allow change to stall, not from failure, but from feared success.

When you’re driving change, try to live like Theodore Roosevelt.

Act as if you’re not afraid until you actually cease to be.

Think what you’ll accomplish then!

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