Tuesday, November 04, 2014

6th in a Series on Change: Economic vs. Organizational Approaches to Change by Beer & Nohria

Continuing my exploration of HBR’s Change Management Must Reads, I relished the taoistic a-ha of Beer & Nohria’s article, Cracking the Code of Change which introduces this idea of Theory (E)conomic and (O)rganizational approaches to change and a discussion of how to best manage this tension. 

Theory E change is hard approach driven by shareholder returns and characterized by economic incentives and organizational restructuring. 

Theory O change is a soft approach driven by cultural & capability development through learning, teamwork and communication. When this approach is used it is usually out of a long held commitment to employees. 

The US favors E while the EU and Asia tend to favor O, or so generalizes the authors. 

In the case of entrepreneurs, the authors suggest that entrepreneurs can be classified as driven by cash out (E) or culture building (O). 

You see the taoistic interplay of opposing forces here already, yes? You also discern the tension between the needs to be loyal to shareholders and employees.

In reality, all companies must use a mix of these approaches. The trick is to balance these to fit the context leadership teams finds themselves in, and to do so avoiding the confusing perception of being "nurturing cutthroats”. 

The authors suggests two approaches to E/O execution, sequencing and simultaneous

Sequencing is an approach for mixing these approaches over time, and with requisite storytelling to assure that all affected are aware of where in the E/O cycle the organizational culture is operating towards a longer term change objective. It seems that such sequencing would allow a critical mass of focus on one approach to another at any given time with out sacrificing the benefits of either approach over time. The authors suggest that E be sequenced before O as the reverse carries too great a price of employee disaffection. This said, sequencing has the disadvantages of taking a long time and possibly across multiple leadership regimes.

Given these disadvantages of sequencing, the authors offer a faster but riskier and potentially more successful, approach of simultaneous E/O action which requires:

1. embracing this paradox in goal setting
2. setting direction from above while engaging from below so that command and control play well with the grassroots. (Sounds like a Battle of the Bands.)
3. focusing simultaneously on the hard and soft elements of change though in proper sequence
4. allowing & rewarding experimentation & evolution
5. rewarding people to reinforce, not drive, change

These simultaneous dynamics, managed well, result in an environment of candor, listening, debating and learning which has a better chance of building trust & commitment to change. 

This article so resonated with me as it described this tension of opposites, and management of a middle way, which has often been hidden in plain sight throughout my career as a change leader. It provides an orderly paradigm to so many seemingly chaotic regimes I have witnessed and been a part of. Fortunately, such blindness has not killed all success and leave me looking forward to even more success in the future now I am educated. 


As an after note, I see how these approaches are applicable not only to organizations but also to individuals having applications for my leadership development as well as that of my leadership coaching. 

I hope this "taoistic" a-ha is as helpful to you and your ongoing change activities as it was for me. 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Does Your Child Need A LinkedIn Profile?

I was recently talking with my wife about the topics that is easily among the top five we have discussed in our relationship, "children and how best to prepare them for life." In this discussion she told me about an initiative she heard Philadelphia is piloting to keep track of (high) school children's academic and community service activities from grades to awards to projects to extracurriculars. As she spoke, I replied, "sounds like LinkedIn for kids". Then I wondered, is LinkedIn for kids?! Yikes! No! Yes. I think maybe it is.
Leaving the debate of at what age a child should be exposed to LinkedIn aside, it seems to me that LinkedIn could be a nice substitute for those boxes of school, sports and activities memorabilia in the attic and basement, and a more orderly and presentable one at that. A child's LinkedIn profile would:

1. ease preparation and representation for life's various admissions gauntlets from private schools at various levels to scholarship programs to community service organizations to college to career.
2. remind us of what we, as a family, have invested in, and can be proud of, as we too often forget under the stress of life,
3. remind our children of their accomplishments over time inspiring their self confidence.

On the flip side, I fully expect the sentiment that this suggestion puts our children's privacy at risk, is inappropriate blatant exhibitionism and that LinkedIn is too advanced for children. I'd say all these arguments have merit for consideration.

In response to privacy and exhibitionism concerns, I'd advise keeping the profile private so that it's an orderly repository for you and your child until an appropriate time for future publication. In the meantime you don't lose those resume items to poor memory, and your child begins to get an education in how to use LinkedIn as a storytelling platform for their careers.

As to the "too advance" point, I'd say you do it for your child without exposing them if they'd are too young the same way you store away savings for their future when they are too young. The fact is that the experiences we afford our children are an experiential savings asset which they spend later to gain life's opportunities, so LinkedIn becomes an experience bank of sorts. 

In any case, I thought this an interesting idea, and wonder if it's not a new business opportunity for LinkedIn as parents tend to more readily part with money for their children's welfare than for their own. For many I know, their kid's LinkedIn will look better than theirs. :-)

I'm very much interested in your thoughts as to additional benefits and caveats regarding this approach.
Here are other reads I found on this topic:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

As Culture Eats Strategy, Action Eats Fear!


So we are most all familiar with the famous Peter Drucker quote "Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”. He posits that much good strategy is thwarted by organizational cultures which fights and kills strategies they are uncomfortable with. We know it takes great skill and persistence to shepard innovative strategies through the organization's cultural gauntlets. 

Lately I have been experimenting with a variation on this theme, "Action Eats Fear for (you insert the meal)". :-) In this context, action is the proxy of strategy and fear, of culture.  

Being on sabbatical, I have more time than usual to be plagued and paralyzed by fearful feelings and thoughts. I have found though that when tempted to bog down in this paralysis, “skillful" action is a reliable antidote. As with myself, so with organizations where we often see that in the face of uncertainty, organizations succumb to a "sickness of fear”, a topic my good colleague Bill Drummy recently called to our attention in a TEDMED recap blog post

In situations where we are experiencing a sickness of fear, we are not so much at fault for being inactive as for being unskillful in the actions we take. This is a conundrum as skillful action is often the child of unskillful action that we learn from. This pondered, a good addition to my original premise is that while Action may eat Fear in the short term, Educated Action breeds Success over the longer term. :-D

David Allen’s (of Getting Things Done fame) Next Action is a good practice to execute this Action Eats Fear strategy. Forgetting about the fear of what could go wrong and what resource is lacking, I find that taking the Next Action is like a lit candle which pushes back the darkness of fear. In each Next Action, one more step toward a goal is accomplished, and hopefully learned from. 

I am also finding that sometimes the best Next Action is one of (relative) non-action, taking a nap, sitting in meditation, going for a walk or writing an encouraging note to a colleague who inadvertently crossed my mind. This non-acting action often unblocks the flow of creativity and courage that fear blocks. 

So as Culture Eats Strategy, let’s also remember that Action Eats Fear and be skillful in how we confront to get the change we are working on in the world, however we define it.

Bon app├ętit! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

5th in a Series on Change: Tempered Radicalism by Meyerson

So this article gave me the name for a role I relish but did not have a name for, Tempered Radical! Nice! 

tempered radical is "an informal leader who quietly challenges prevailing wisdom and provokes cultural transformation”. They:

1. "rock the boat without falling out” 
2. leverage their differentness in the organization for constructive change 
3. effect significant change over time through moderate, local, diffuse, (in)visible, flexible, persistently patient means. 
4. walk the fine line of dedication to the company (status quo) and change. 
5. work largely alone, but are savvy at uniting others
6. listen and converse to bring people around rather than pressing their own agenda
7. see potential friends where most others see embattled foes
8. set an example from which others can learn   

On describing the characteristics of tempered radicals, and I hope you see yourself here, the author talks about the tempered radical’s tactics along a continuum from the personal to the public. 

1. disruptive self expression, most personal means, where one quietly acts in ways disrupts expectations and improves performance
2. verbal jujitsu, where one redirects negative statements & actions into positive change
3. variable term opportunism, where one is open and ready to capitalize on unexpected opportunities for short-term change and to orchestrating deliberate long-term change
4. strategic alliance building, the most public means, whereby clout is gained by working with allies, and especially in the form of opponents, who are "often their best sources of support and resources”.

I love the author’s allusion to the tempered radical’s effect as, “like steady drops of water, they gradually erode granite”.


May we all see our potential as tempered radicals to effect the change we desire in the world. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

4th in a Series on Change: Survival Guide for Leaders by Heifetz & Linsky

This article especially resonated as the right leaders must survive if we are to survive.  Our survival is threatened when too many shy away from leadership because they are afraid they cannot, or will not survive. 

The author talks about leadership as “living dangerously”. The leader is always subject to being taken out, removed or set aside, thus the need for such a guide. 

The author asks us to remember that the hazard of leadership which is leaders are asking followers to give up what is dear to them. This was a slap in the side of the head for me! Though true, I had never thought about it this way. As a result, I cultivate new compassion for those we are asking to lead change. I cultivate like compassion for those who undercut change in the name of order, familiarity, security and protection. The author admonishes leaders to pay close attention to the losses, dashed expectations and feelings of incompetence and disloyalty their staff struggle with as part of change. This attention is critical to empathic leadership which balances tough calls with acknowledgment of pain and loss.

I really dug the distinction the author makes between technical change (involving objects and processes) and adaptive change (involving people and their mindsets & practices). The latter is the more challenging and that most change projects fail as they mistake adaptive, for technical, change. We go for the easier task of changing the technical and paying too little attention to how the more challenging human element.
The author goes on to talk about the common hazards change leaders face, and must be equipped to address if they are to survive. They are:

1. Character or style attacks as these are often effective (for the opposition)  as a distraction from the issue or opportunity at hand

2. Marginalization where the leader is so identified with a narrow set of issues that their broader authority is undermined  

3. Seduction by need for approval which causes the leader to hedge on asking for sufficient sacrifice and accountability from their followers and stakeholders

4. Diversion due to overwhelm with too many, or too disparate, priorities which is effective in diluting focus and critical mass of effort.

As leaders we all struggle with these hazards and have or are being threatened by them all the time. 


The author contends that resisting sabotage requires environmental management and self management. One might term these the outer and the inner game.

Environmental Management, or the outer game, involves:

1. Operating in and above the fray where the leader is both able to be in the situation as participant, and apart from it as observer, providing the ability to simultaneously act in and upon the change situation. 

2. Courting the uncommitted where the leader is influential in bring people along and around to the change they envision. I especially like the authors suggestion that leader have coffee weekly with their detractors. Talk about jumping into the lion’s jaws rather than avoiding it.

3. Cooking the conflict where the leader wisely gauges the organization’s need for turned up heat to get action, versus a cool down period to avoid burn out or burn up

4. Placing work where it belongs where the leader leaves problem resolution and opportunity capitalization to the troops, and avoids an over-reliance on leadership and the corresponding contempt it can engender. Ultimately, the leader has to move people to take up the message without being the assassinated messenger. 

Self Management, or the inner game, involves:
1. Restraining the need for control and importance in order to avoid ego trip(up)s and instead facilitate structure and process that channel energy into change.

2. Self-anchoring with:
     a) psychological repair & moral recalibration which acknowledged that the leadership game by its nature inflicts wounds and erodes one’s moral compass, the effects of which we see regularly in the news.
     b) a confidant to maintain external perspective and accountability, and
     c) role detachment so that the leader understands that the role of leader is just that, and not one’s true self.

The author asserts that leadership tempts one to become insulated from life with cynicism, arrogance and callousness, and that observing these points of management are ways to engage as a leader while avoiding this latter fate. I love the author's rubric which encourages daily reflection, repair, renewal and recalibration in every leader.

Upon reading this article, one might be tempted to avoid leadership because of its multiple risks but the author asserts that the risk is worth it for the reward of the positive difference that leaders stand to bring into the world. In other words, “no pain, no joy”.

May we all survive well as leaders, and support our leader's survival as followers.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

3rd in a Series on Change Management: Why People Won't Change

In my reading of the Harvard Business Review article, The "Real Reason People Won’t Change” by Kegan & Lahey, I came across this concept of “change immunity”. The insight is that "commitment conflict? is why people resist and even fights change. It is less that they are fighting change than that they are being true to their current commitments. Can’t blame people for that. In fact you can even respect them for it. That said, such immunity can cause damage when change is resisted in lieu of the obsolete status quo. By the way, a "competing commitment" is a subconscious hidden goal that conflicts with stated commitments. 

For me this is a new insight and a caution not to take other’s resistance to change personally. This is not about me. It really is about them and their commitment. This new insight accepted, the question becomes what can be done about it. The authors espouse a challenging 3 step process that can be used to overcome “change immunity”. Here is a summation of it and please read the article for better details.

1) Diagnose the Competing Commitment where there is an examination of: a) the change we state we want, b) the commitment required  to realize the stated change, c) the undermining behaviors that are disabling the stated change, d) an imagining of performing the  commitment (from b) along with an observation of the thinking, (uncomfortable) feeling & actions this calls up, and e) an examination of the worrisome outcome we are working to prevent when we engage in undermining behaviors. This “aha” insight contains the "BIG Assumption".  

2) Identify the Big Assumption, that generates our competing commitment. Do so by creating a sentence which inverts the competing commitment and reveals what we are really afraid of. For instance, I have a commitment to publish a book and on doing this exercise realize that publishing a book conflicts with my commitment to assuring that I do not make a “public" mistake. This explains why the book is still not published. Realization of this assumption helps as knowing what my conflicting commitment is, I can better choose to choose a more important commitment. Big assumptions are so difficult to identify and forsake because they “create a disarming and deluding sense of certainty”, and certainty is where its at, until its not. 

3) Test & Replace the Big Assumption where one confirms, via direct experience, how much their Big Assumption is unconsciously controlling their behavior, and deliberately plans alternate behavior which support their stated commitment.

The author further makes the point that groups are as susceptible to commitment conflict as individuals. As you can imagine, getting individuals to work through this process is tough enough so getting groups through it is exponentially grueling, but fortunately not impossible.

To lend proper perspective, the author notes that this process takes several hours to work through and a long time to ultimately act on in terms of reversing the undermining behaviors which support the status quo.

The author acknowledges that “bringing these issues to the surface  and confronting them head-on is challenging and painful-yet tremendously effective. Ultimately this process is about "understanding the complexities of people’s behavior, guiding them through a productive process to bring their competing commitments to the surface, and helping them cope with the inner conflict that is preventing them from achieving their goals.”

Good stuff and goodness help us in applying it for ourselves and our organizations.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2nd in a Series on Change Management: Howard Jacobson’s Career Capital & Averted Loss

As a part of this series on insights from the literature on ChangeManagement, I want to share an insight related to change resistance as a form of prudent "career capital" investment, retained control and averted loss. These ideas came from a presentation, "Driving Change: A Marketing Model", I saw at the Fall 2013 Digital Health Coalition Summit by Howard Jacobson, PhD of Vitruvian. 

In this deck, he does a great job of recasting my view of change resistance from mere fear to additional views like: 1) career capital investment, 2) retained control and 3) averted loss.

The key resonant idea he talks about in his presentation is career capital, a resource we have all worked to accumulate over time and which we are loath to invest unless we are sure of a positive return. When viewed this way, stakeholder slowing down and resisting change makes sense, as it allows time for “loss aversion”, a great term the author uses, and helps the perception of retained control. One might even say that change is irresponsible if it does not come with sufficient proof of positive outcomes in these areas.

I know that as change leaders, I often am not seeing it this way. I realize I might make more progress, and better business cases, if I empathized with how my stakeholders perceive change in these ways. This insight cautions me to be more patient, persistent, thorough (and curiously courageous, as the author calls for) in how I plan and conduct my interactions with those I'm asking change of.

On reflection, it also causes me to be mindful of the ways in which I resist, and sometimes even work against change, in those cases where I believe, usually unconsciously, that change is a loss of control and a negative investment of my own career capital.