Strategy Perspective Blog Posts: 2012

Getting Out of the Clouds

November 30th, 2012

Eable When an organizational change initiative requires new technology, it is easy to focus on the technology at the expense of supporting the employees who will actually be using it. Fairly narrow initiatives are especially vulnerable to this. Consider the recent example of a small firm switched their email program. This should have been a very straightforward change. However, they ran into problems. The problems that they experienced stemmed directly from their focus on installing the new software at the expense of preparing employees who where expected to use it. Read more about how to avoid this trap on

Tags: tools infrastructure, business case, results

Insights even from Spam!

October 29th, 2012

Eable Some spam dropped in my inbox with dramatic pictures of bald eagles, and its message was supposedly about what eagles can teach us about change. The email claimed that a bald eagle can live to be 70 years old—about twice its normal life span—by going through a “rebirth.” This rebirth involves dire, difficult, and distressing physical actions—any single one of which would more than likely kill the bird. The conclusion of the spam was that the eagle has a lesson for all of us: to move forward, and make a significant change, we must take painful steps to rid ourselves of the past. This spam had more to tell us about people’s fear of change than about eagles. Read more on

Tags: Change, Concerns

Understanding the Context

October 2nd, 2012

Mind the Gap “Mind the gap!” is practical advice not to step into the space between the train and the platform in a London subway station. Being mindful of spaces or gaps is also good advice for any sort of communication. Setting the context can change the meaning of all sorts of communication–not just verbal, but also the communication that comes from rewards and other recognition. Read more on

Tags: Leadership, Organizational Change

Success Story using the Seven Levers of Change

August 23rd, 2012

Success Story After reading Creating Contagious Commitment: Applying the Tipping Point to Organizational Change, Gale Adland director of a Meals on Wheels (MOW) in Durham NC attended a Change, Dialogue, and Action workshop. She had been working on program to make a larger impact in the community by feeding more of the homebound hungry, that was beginning to stall.

My August blog post on gives a success story of how MOW used the Seven Levers of Change reach their goal. Six months after starting their new program, Durham MOW office is feeding over 20% more clients. In Gale’s words, “I am certain this would not have been possible without the upgrades to our systems and having a staff fully engaged in the new processes.” Read more→

Tags: Leadership, Levers of Change

Looking Back to Move Forward

August 9th, 2012

A friend recently directed me to an article from June on about the Museum of Failed Products outside Ann Arbor, Michigan. The collection was the accidental result of a marketer’s attempt to collect one example of every consumer product made. His collection became a compilation of failed products, because “most products fail”—perhaps as many as 90% of them.


The museum now belongs to a market research firm, who has turned it into a profit center. Product developers are given tours to learn from past disasters—sometimes even created by their own companies. These unsuccessful products were often a surprise to the developers, because companies want to move quickly on from failures, so they don’t chronicle them for future learning.

Unlike organizational change initiatives, consumer products are tangible. It is hard to imagine a similar gallery of failed initiatives. Nonetheless, the lesson is that looking back at past changes—both the successful and less successful initiatives—is an opportunity to improve future organizational changes.

Tags: Leadership, Learning

Escaping Short-Termism

July 30th, 2012

Save Now, Pay LaterBreaking out of a short-term focus can be challenging. Everyone has seen quick fixes applied to urgent problems that ultimately undermine the initiative. Systems thinking can break the cycle of short-termism. Recall that systems thinking helps clarify the underlying interactions and interrelationships that cause the everyday events that we experience. Seeing and understanding this causal structure improves decision making by demonstrating both the short-term and long-term effects that can result from any decision.

This month’s blog is about a company that reorganized to align the reporting structure of the technical specialists with the area they supported, and there by make the workflow more efficient. However, their short-term focus lead to cutting some admin positions and creating new inefficiencies.

The “Fixes that Fail” archetype helped them see both the long- and short-term effects of their decision. Read more at

Tags: Leadership, Systems Thinking

Lead through Vision, Commitment, and Inclusion

June 26th, 2012

text The old expression “It’s lonely at the top,” evokes an image of the single, decisive leader at the top of the pyramid. He hoards knowledge and authority while barking orders to subordinates who carry them out without question—like cogs in a machine. This model may have been effective when businesses and products were simpler, and competition was local or national but not global. Today, the top of the hierarchy simply cannot hoard all the know-how for an organization to make a successful product or service. Modern leadership is about direction and vision. It is more about what to do, and less about how to do it. Leading change is no different. has more on this post→

Tags: Leadership, Employee Involvement

Results or Consequences?

May 25th, 2012

CollaborationWhile senior managers explain the lofty goals and benefits expected from a new organizational change initiative, how often are employees are wondering how it would affect them? There is a lot of groundwork needed, understanding employees concerns and explaining the roll out plan, before the employees are ready to resonate with the goals and benefits of the change and take them on as their own. The precious time it takes to listen to people’s issues and ideas about what needs to change, and integrating them—when possible—is time well spent that can prevent unintended consequences. Read more→

Tags: Change management, Concerns, Engaging Employees

Using Levers of Change Together

April 27th, 2012

SynergyThis blog post, continues the exploration of the seven levers of change. It looks in a bit more depth three levers of change. These three are designed to help leaders cultivate an environment that supports the change. Specifically it looks at how much more powerful they are when used together. Each lever is more effective when the other two are present, and investment in one leads to greater return on investment from all three.

Read the full blog post at

Tags: Change Management, Systems Thinking

An Introduction to the Seven Levers of Change

April 11th, 2012

Seven Levers of ChangeSeven levers of change set employee engagement in motion and give an organizational change momentum. The levers are not meant to be a formula, but represent seven aspects that require attention and planning for successful change management. Two levers deal with making sure everyone knows about the change, two deal with handling resistance and gaining expertise, and three deal with fostering an environment that supports your organizational change. The seven levers of change are covered in detail in Creating Contagious Commitment, and there is a good overview on my March blog post on These levers also form the basis for the acclaimed Change, Dialogue, and Action workshop.

Tags: Tipping Point Simulation, Engaging Employees

Leading by Example

February 22nd, 2012

Walk the TalkWalk the talk evokes images of change leaders who are involved with the change and who lead by example. It means applying the same skills that managers bring to their areas of expertise to organizational change. Good practice, like making the case for change clear, evaluating what is needed, monitoring progress, making course corrections, and rewarding success, go a long way toward leading change. Read more→

The Change, Dialogue, and Action: Applying the Tipping Point to Organizational Change workshop gives participants a chance to experience the importance of leading by example. Teams compete using the interactive computer simulation, the Tipping Point, to create effective change. They learn from one another as they devise a change strategy and from the simulation by seeing their results unfold over time.

Tags: Leadership, Management Skill

Knowing Where We Are Going

January 31st, 2012

textA clear vision of where a change initiative is taking the organization can motivate employees and prevent scope creep. Read more about the importance of vision and of communicating it my blog on Otherwise, you are left with the proverbial question "Are we there yet?"

Read the whole post at

Tags: Vision, Setting Direction

Teambuilding for Bob

January 26th, 2012

Thanks to George Smart ( for this guest blog.


My favorite business article of all time is by Steven Kerr. In 1975 he wrote a short, powerful piece entitled “On the Folly of Rewarding A while Hoping for B. Google it! Kerr succinctly captured one of corporate America’s most annoying and expensive behaviors – the continued avoidance of addressing uncomfortable issues by rewarding different or generalized behavior – all the while hoping the original problem gets fixed.

As Michael Crawford commented 20 years later, “Kerr’s central point is that we can expect people to rationally do (or pretend to do) the things that are rewarded rather than the things we say they should do. As has been said, “Put your money on self-interest. At least you know the jockey is trying.”

A few times each year, I get invited to do corporate teambuilding. Their 5th-level admin has a list of consultants, no budget figures, and no real agenda. The mandate from the admin’s boss is, basically, “call these people and see how much they charge for a day of teambuilding.”

From here the story is pretty much the same, just the names change. After much beating around the bush, the person will confess quietly that the real reason for this request is Bob, whose incompetence is destroying teamwork and setting people against each other. The boss is uncomfortable or unsuccessful or unwilling to address the issues with Bob, so the boss decides to drag the other 30 poor souls out for a day of teambuilding – and hopes maybe Bob will get the message. When I figure this out, and suggest the problem lies outside of Bob, the caller gets uncomfortable, won’t let me speak with the boss, and calls the next consultant on the list. Thank God. At least I dodged the bullet of a badly conceived intervention. Those 30 people won’t be so lucky. And Bob, bless his little dysfunctional heart, will get a lovely catered day off from work.

It’s clear this is not a team issue. Teambuilding is totally the wrong solution. This is a personnel issue that is not being appropriately handled by the boss. Bob isn’t going to change one bit because of this day, even if I trot out the best teambuilding exercises. All the company has for its money and 240+ hours of labor time is slightly more pissed group people who missed a day of real work.

The Tipping Point simulation, which my company has used with clients for about a decade, is refreshingly on point and still to this day remarkably innovative. It teaches people to think about outcomes before they go down some silly fork in the road hoping for unrealistic change. By knowing how you’ll get the desired idea – any idea – to stick, companies improve the problem definition to match the fix and get much more focused and relevant. Those who experience The Tipping Point’s insights into starting and sustaining relevant change learn that most knee-jerk attempts like Teambuilding for Bob are expensive, time-consuming, and doomed from inception.

Tags: Team Building, Computer Simulation

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