John Kotter’s latest Harvard Business Review article, Accelerate, came out this week. It’s a must read. All those readers who are also Guiding Coalition participants will enjoy the fact that for years you’ve been living in the system that Dr. Kotter introduces to the world in the article. We don’t get to live on the leading edge often enough. Enjoy it my friends.
Rob is always feeding me great videos. Here’s Shawn Achor’s TedTalk on happiness.
Hugh Huck started sharing videos with me too. I’m glad to have him in the Engine for Change network. Here’s a great one he showed me from Margaret Heffernan. (My favorite line comes from Alice’s daughter: “My mother didn’t enjoy a fight, but she was really good at them.”) Heffernan’s tale of Alice Stewart‘s challenges echoes the “no one believed me, but I was right” storyline of Dave Snowden’s longitude video. It’s painful to hear how no one believed Mr. Harrison for more than 20 years and no one believed Dr. Stewart for 25 years. Their stories give me courage to keep fighting for changes that matter to me. If they could fight that long then so can I. Will you fight too?
Have a fantastic weekend and be sure to recharge so you can keep driving change.
BONUS: We think we know more than we do about complex issues. Thanks for the link, Hilbert.
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?
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.
Reading for me is like applying large strips of Velcro to my brain. With each new thing I read, whether a business book, novel or local newspaper, I now have new information that other information can stick to. This new information always seems to help me find the patterns I need to drive the changes I want.
When you’re driving change, if you’ve lined your brain in Velcro, you’ll be better equipped to pick up patterns, to see connections and to catch the facts you need.
Anything by Seth Godin, but especially Tribes and Linchpin
Anything by Eli Goldratt, but especially The Goal and It’s Not Luck
Anything by John Kotter, but especially Leading Change and Sense of Urgency
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)?
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.
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:
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.
I tried to write a typical review (what I loved, what I wondered about, so what) of Seth Godin’s Linchpin and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
Instead, to show you how I saw Linchpin, I must draw you a map.
If you know me personally, and frequent the space near me, you’ve likely watched me scrawl some version of this onto one white board or another. You’ll have to tell me if I’ve left out any of the good parts.
To the rest of you, I hope that over the imperfect medium of the internet, this somehow makes sense. I’m no Tolkien (really going out on a limb on this one), but I’m trying to draw for you my own Middle Earth, the map in my mind.
Here we go:
Before I read Linchpin, I was already thinking about maps, new maps. [Actually, new coordinate systems (but I'll just leave you with the link for now).]
Then, I found these lines in Linchpin:
Every day I meet people who have so much to give but have been bullied enough or frightened enough to hold it back. They have become victims, pawns in a senseless system that uses them up and undervalues them.
It’s time to stop complying with the system and draw your own map.
Who am I to question Seth Godin? I drew a map. (more…)
This article went out in the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) news wire today:
MAR25-06: Leadership Icon Visits Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & IMF
From Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility Public Affairs
BREMERTON, Wash.- Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS & IMF), a Naval Sea Systems Command field activity, was recognized, March 19, by a prominent leadership scholar as one of only one percent of the world’s organizations working to embrace change and finding success.
The change is a result of PSNS & IMF’s “Guiding Coalition,” a strategic planning model that focuses on developing leaders and sustaining results, supporting the command’s mission as a full-service naval shipyard and maintenance facility for the Navy’s ships.
“This is all about listening, seeking to improve the alignment between words and actions, and always striving for excellence,” said Capt. Mark Whitney, PSNS & IMF commander.
“Our efforts are focused on allowing our folks to continuously develop themselves, to connect with and be ready for the future work force, and improve the daily work environment around them. And we are!”
“Only 15 percent of all organizations are really trying to understand how to live with and respond to the rate of change. Of the organizations, 15 percent are trying to move in a direction that they know works, 14 of the 15 percent are struggling because of the culture or environment that drives them. Only 1 percent of the organizations in the world are making progress; they are doing what you all are doing,” said John Kotter, Harvard Business School professor and creator of the Guiding Coalition concept, during a recent visit to the shipyard.
According to Kotter, his model shows that “a strong Guiding Coalition [committee] is always needed-one with the right composition, level of trust and shared objective. Building such a team is always an essential part of the early stages of any effort to restructure.”
PSNS & IMF is continuously looking for ways to streamline its processes and how its most valuable asset, its people, is utilized.
In the last four years, the command’s Guiding Coalition committee has formed a Command University through expanded investments in training; created a Diversity Council; and improved cafeterias, facilities, communications and more. These initiatives use established methods to develop systems and processes to conduct training, education, optimizing personnel and equipment resources. This enables PSNS & IMF to attract new employees and maintain the excellence of their current work force.
“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,” Kotter said. “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.”
Leadership Icon Visits Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & IMF By PSNS & IMF Public Affairs
When speaking with PSNS & IMF's Guiding Coalition Committee and honored guest John Kotter, Harvard Business School professor, Captain Whitney, Commander, PSNS & IMF, stated, "We are catching the edge where words and actions are aligned. That's making a difference, to me."
BREMERTON, WA—Why would an internationally recognized expert on leadership and change ask to visit the U. S. Navy’s shipyard in Bremerton, Wash.?
John Kotter, Harvard Business School professor and best-selling author of Leading Change, visited the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility March 19, 2010, to see for himself the success the Command has had with his eight-step Leading Change model.
Kotter’s eight-step model describes how organizations can gain the ability to change their culture for continued success. It is a roadmap that has helped people talk about transformation and change.
According to Kotter, his model shows that
“a strong Guiding Coalition [committee] is always needed—one with the right composition, level of trust and shared objective. Building such a team is always an essential part of the early stages of any effort to restructure.”
In the last four years, PSNS & IMF’s Guiding Coalition Committee has formed a Command University through expanded investments in training; created a Diversity Council; and improved the Command’s cafeterias, facilities, communications and more. These successes have reverberated throughout PSNS & IMF.
“You guys are really making some headway; don’t let up,” Kotter said. “It’s easy to see some wins and say, ‘Hooray, we did that,’ and then let up. If anything, you need to put your foot down a little more on the accelerator.”
Dennis Goin, a national facilitator of guiding coalitions who has worked with Kotter, believes that PSNS & IMF is an example of how the Leading Change model should work.
“If you’ve ever wanted your strategic planning book put together with your strategic plan in place, then this is the model to use,” Goin said. “The book stays open; the initiatives are constantly being worked; you are constantly touching them.”
Taking the Leading Change eight-steps developed by Kotter—and blending a mixture of positional power, expertise, credibility and leadership—the PSNS & IMF Guiding Coalition has become more than a committee; it is an engine for change.
“For someone who roams around the world and has seen hundreds of companies, universities and the government, there are some things going on [at PSNS & IMF] that are on the leading edge,” Kotter said. “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.”
John Kotter, Harvard Business School professor, visited PSNS & IMF on March 19 for a series of discussions. Kotter shared during his visit, "You've got a lot of terrific talent out there."
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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