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.
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 to change, but I don’t think it takes longer.
Because driving people to change seems shorter (order them to do it today and they do it today) but never works (for long) while driving change takes as long as it takes, but it’s successful nearly every time.
I’ll take success at the pace it comes over being right and 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 change to get to your right answer faster, remember:
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.
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.
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?
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?