Let Your Little Light Shine

Mother Teresa told a story of a man in Melbourne she visited who had been, it seemed, forgotten by the world and himself.  She asked to clean his room for him because she saw it was in a terrible state.  He reluctantly agreed.  When she cleaned she found an old, beautiful, unlit lamp covered in dust.  She asked him,

Why do you not light the lamp?”

He replied:

For whom? No one comes to me.”

She said:

Will you light the lamp if a Sister comes to see you?”

He agreed, saying:

Yes, if I hear a human voice I will do it.”

Some time later, Mother Teresa received word from the man, who said:

Tell my friend that the light she has lighted in my life is still burning.”

Mother Teresa ended the story with a simple, profound line:

See what a little act can do?”

For the past decade, I’ve been honored to do what I could, with what I had, where I was, to encourage you to light the lamp in your life. As Mother Teresa found, I have never had to put something into someone that was not there before we met.  I only had to notice it and encourage you to light your lamp in your life.  Thank you to all of you who’ve journeyed with me this past decade.  I pray that the lamp in your life is still burning and that you are continuing to drive the changes you want today.

Always, but especially during this season of thanksgiving, I am thankful for all of you, for your sparks and flames of change, and for the beacons you are to others to light that part of their soul that they know is there but may have neglected had they not heard your voice. I pray that you will continue to reach out to them, encourage them, and role model to them all that they can be if they will only shine bright today.

Why not try?

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Take Your Shot at Mars

As the 50th anniversary of the moon landing nears, my thoughts have been drifting past the moon, to Mars.

In 1962, when President Kennedy challenged the United States to go to the moon he said,

We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon…We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.

What Kennedy was declaring was the known difficulty to close the gap between our aspiration (the moon) and our ability.  He foreshadowed the struggle and the required unwavering commitment to the goal, the height of the challenge and the urgency of now.

Many organizations today are struggling to deal with the rate of change.  The new frontiers of their industry are shifting faster than their current abilities can adapt.  They are trying to improve, but often aren’t making the progress or reaching the speeds the think they need.  Like the United States in 1962, five years after the launch of Sputnik, many organizations are wondering if they can or ever will catch up to their competition.  

When faced with a other-worldly challenges, we require boundary-breaking tactics and solutions.  Doing what you’ve always done won’t get you there.  And, spending huge sums to become “best-in-class” is really a high priced way to stay forever in second place.  You need your own Mars shot.

Yes, Mars, because the moon is no longer enough.

Declaring your intention to go to your Mars doesn’t mean you’ll arrive tomorrow, but like the U.S. found in 1969, if you never declare your intention you won’t align, focus, and energize the actions necessary to ever get there.

Many organizations are pouring huge sums of money into getting better.  They might call it “transformation” but it is really improvement at best.  Getting better than you are today is necessary, but it is not sufficient to create a sustained competitive advantage that a Mars shot delivers.  The U.S., rightly or wrongly, has been basking in the success of the Moon landing for 50 years and has gone no further.  That competitive advantage sustained longer that I’m sure anyone expected in 1969.

What must we do to get to Mars?  What more must we do? 

Actually, I think the answer is found in doing less.  Less trying to be like everyone else, frees us to learn from the best and reach beyond them, which powers our ability to learn, imagine, and implement beyond the frontiers of our industry. Many organizations have been looking for success by staring at others and copying their behaviors.  Instead, a Mars shot focuses us on the goal, not on the competition, and then we do everything we can to move forward together.

If all of this sounds great, but you’re thinking, “I don’t think I can be the first,” don’t worry.

If the Mars shot is closing the gap between your aspirations and ability as fast as possible, then Mars is already colonized and all you have to do is decide to join those who live there.  The Mars colonists are the organizations that have sustained a competitive advantage by doing what everyone else could, but wouldn’t, do.  For example, Toyota stops production to go faster and Space X reuses its rockets.

They “slipped the surly bonds of Earth,” and reached unprecedented heights using mostly readily available tools, methods, and thinking. The first step to joining them to choose to join them.

Then, you can get on to doing the hard work of leaving your old habits on Earth behind for the ones most suited to your new Mars environment. You can close your aspiration – ability gap. You can start today.  Mars is waiting for you, but not for long.

Are you ready to learn more?

Coming soon, my new book, tentatively titled:

Take Your Shot at Mars: How Organizations Can Rocket Forward to Sustained Competitive Advantage 

Follow me on Twitter (@engineforchange) or on LinkedIn to catch all the latest updates and publication dates.

 

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Change: What makes it run? What keeps it running?

 

Conventionally powered change runs on the force of driving people.  It takes years, has a high failure rate (sources vary in the actual %, but individual experience can attest that it fails more often than we’d like) and leaves you depleted of funds, morale, and good will.

 

 

 

 

 

Unconventional change runs on driving change. It takes weeks or months, has a higher chance of success and leaves you cash richer, energized, and stronger.  It can be a positively addictive, perpetual motion machine.  Once started, it just keeps going.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From first flipping the switch to fine tuning, you’ll get improved results when you’re driving change, not people. That’s Change Agent Essential® #1.

 

But first, we must break free from the gravitational pull of the status quo of driving people.  The blessing is that breaking free is as simple as choosing to drive change, not people.

Why not try?

 

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Bending the Organization to Our Will in 2016

In our modern world, organizations are routinely bending nature to their will for our benefit.

Yet, this control doesn’t transfer to the routines of organizational life.  We plan project portfolios using metrics we know aren’t effective, conduct annual performance appraisals that achieve little, and spend months to fill vacancies even though candidates are readily available.

We can do better.  All we need to do is classify the obstacle in way of reaching our goal.

  • A personal belief
  • An organizational rule (written or unwritten)
  • A regulatory policy
  • A law

I have yet to find an obstacle that couldn’t be moved a little or a lot once it was classified.

In 2016, name what is holding you back.  Then, go remove it.  The world you want is possible.

Why not try?

I covered this same topic in a slightly different way back in 2012 in a post, “Which Rules to Follow – A Story.”

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New hats

I’ve begun or am soon to begin several new roles simultaneously.  The process of starting so much new is reminding me that change stimulates the mind in ways that learning within a role never can.

Assuming a new role requires so much probing, listening, sensing, sending, receiving, and interpreting that every nerve seems activated.  I’m both more awake and more exhausted than I’ve been in a long time and the combination is often (though I’ll admit not always) exhilarating.

If you’re finding it hard to hit the peaks of alertness (or the depths of despair) because you’ve settled into a rut, perhaps now is the time to climb out of the rut and put on a new hat and try on a new role (or two or three) and see what happens.  All kinds of new possibilities might open up.

Why not try?

Hats!

Photo credit: arbyreed via Compfight

 

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