Recycling – Project 1

In last weeks #GCDrive class I touched on a lot of the topics that have been featured as blog posts here.  To aid my new Guiding Coalition members with taking their new topics to heart, I thought I would recycle some of the old posts.

At some point last week I got off on a rant about the essential difference between submitting to:

  • Physics (which is indifferent to your submission or not — submission only has value for you, not for the physics-based system you are trying to control)

and

  • Man-made rules or policies or instructions, which may or may not be documents detailing an accurate way to submit to physics.

Back in February I posted a rant on the same topic, titled “Which Rules to Follow” and cited a story about Admiral Rickover (yes, I have an intellectual crush on him!).  The story goes:

Rickover was keenly aware that there are two kinds of rules.  He understood that laws of nature, such as the effects of gravity, or radiation, or excessive temperature or pressure, cannot be gotten around by fast talk, political influence, or subterfuge.  On the other hand, man-made rules are a different entity.  Some, such as laws passed by legislative bodies, must be obeyed, and he was scrupulous about this.  Others, such as bureaucratic procedures defining how one may carry out assigned responsibilities, sometimes can and should be circumvented, he felt.  In particular, those procedures that “everyone” followed because “it’s just our policy” he not only spurned but did so with great pleasure.” – As told by Theodore Rockwell in The Rickover Effect

Richard Feynman expressed the same sentiment within the Rogers Commission Report on the Challenger disaster when he said,

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

We’d all do well to have that over our desks to keep that truth in our active thoughts each day.

Now, let’s turn to communication:

And, self-preservation while driving change:

Well, that should be enough to keep any new Guiding Coalition member busy and get them poking around the blog to see what topics I’ve already touched that they may have missed.  I hope you enjoyed this recycling project.

Did you know there are 446 posts on this blog?  That’s a lot of content.  One of these days I’ll have to curate it down into an e-book or something.  If you’ve got an preferences for what topics should be featured in the book, drop me a comment.  Right now, that’s still a glimmer in my eye and open to much shifting and parsing.

 

 

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The failed model of executive-led change

I think about things that other people think are odd.  For example, I’ve wondered for years why it is that almost all business books and consulting pitches assume that the reader or receiver of services is an executive (the .01 to .1% of employees of an organization).  That led me to wonder why I, clearly not an executive, was reading all these books or reviewing all these consulting pitches.

Here’s what I’ve come up with: Executives get to okay large book orders or approve massive consulting contracts.  Therefore the books and the services go where the money is. And I, the non-executive, was reading all of this stuff because if you want to read about change management you don’t have any other sources to go to other than these executive-centric tomes.

While the monopoly of the executives continues in books and consulting, its strangle hold on the idea marketplace is relaxing.  Non-executives are connected via Twitter and LinkedIn and name-your-platform like never before.  I don’t need to ask my boss if I may learn from Seth Godin or Daniel Pink or name-your-guy-or-gal today.  I can just follow them digitally, let their ideas fill my mind, and (here’s the important part) act on what my new thinking tells me.

In most organizations, I’d wager a guess that most truly meaningful changes begin at a level far below the executives.  So, for the other 99.99% or even just the other 99.9% of us that toil away in organizations, there must be something that helps us understand how we can make a meaningful, sustained difference in our organization.

The best thing I’ve found to date (though I’m still diligently looking, and taking suggestions for where to look) is the concept of driving change.  Nowhere does driving change presuppose you possess any level of organizationally-offered power.  Instead it starts with the premise that you have power inside you to impact those around you, and if you’d only use it, you could make a difference.

That seems so simple.  So quick.  So it-can’t-possibly-be-enough.  Yet, I really think it is.

Richard Feynman didn’t have to be appointed a great teacher.  He just was one.

Martin Luther King Jr didn’t work his way up the hierarchy of civil rights leaders.  He acted, boldly and in his own way, and people followed.

Heck, one of my heroes, Admiral H. G. Rickover had to be saved by Congress several times from impending forced retirements because the people guarding the ladder in the Navy would rather not have his outcomes (safe, effective nuclear powered vessels) if it meant they didn’t have to be bothered with him.  He didn’t let their failure to  bestow organizational power stop him from achieving what he believed was right and essential for his country.  We remember him as a four-star admiral, but he started driving change long before he wore any stars.

Don’t let business books and consulting sales pitches lull you into thinking that until you’re an executive you can’t make a difference in your organization.  The power to lead, drive, and win change already exists inside you.  Are you bold enough, brave enough, strong enough to let it out?  When (not if) you try, I’m right here with you.

Let’s drive some change together.  I bet you’ll be glad you did.

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Cargo cult

If you don’t know what the term cargo cult means, you must.

The stylized version of the story behind the term goes something like this:

During World War II the Americans arrived on a Pacific island to build a supply station. On this island was a native population.  When the Americans arrived the natives watched the American’s actions with a great deal of interest.  The natives saw the Americans clear some land, build a runway and control tower, signal for something and suddenly, as if coming from out of nowhere, cargo started to arrive, plane-load by plane-load.  The natives were intrigued.  They wanted these same treasures of cargo from the heavens.  The rushed to their area of the island, cleared some land, built a runway and control tower, placed their high priest at the top of the tower with shells over his ears (to imitate headphones), waived their arms to signal to the skies and waited for planes to land with their cargo. No planes came.

The natives didn’t know what made the planes land.  In the absence of knowing why the American’s cargo system worked all the natives could do was mimic as best they could the actions they could see.  That wasn’t enough to get them the cargo.”

In organizations and in life, people try to imitate someone who has had a success, often to equal results as the natives in our story.

For example: The Story Continues…

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