I hope that at least a few of these recent posts will be of interest to you:
The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field
HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations
Freedom, Inc.: Free Your Employees and Let Them Lead Your Business to Higher Productivity, Profits, and Growth
Brian Carney and Isaac Getz
The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing
The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products That Win
Steven Gary BlanK
Enterprise Games: Using Game Mechanics to Build a Better Business
The Leader’s Pocket Guide: 101 Indispensable Tools, Tips, and Techniques for Any Situation
The Clash of the Cultures: Investment vs. Speculation
John C. Bogle
Blogging on Business
Peter B. Vaill
Conducted by Kerry A. Bunker and Laura Curnutt Santana
Extraordinary Leadership: Addressing the Gaps in Senior Executive Development
Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn) in “The Corner Office”
Conducted by Adam Bryant
The New York Times
John P. Kotter
“On cleaning up messes”
Russell L. Ackoff
From Redesigning the Future: Systems Approach to Societal Problems
“And the winner of the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award 2012 is….”
Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Press Release
“It Don’t Cost Nuthin’ to be Nice”
Paul (Bear) Bryant
“Designing Products for Value”
Ananth Narayanan, Asutosh Padhi, and Jim Williams
The McKinsey Quarterly
“How To Apply the 80/20 Rule At Work”
“What Women Know about Leadership that Men Don’t”
“How to Build a Better Innovation Team”
Management Tip of the Day
“The True Measures of Success”
Michael J. Mauboussin on
“Business Leadership Lessons from the Military”
Editors of Harvard Business Review
“Ten Ways to Get People to Change”
Morten T. Hansen
* * *
To check out these resources and other content, please click here.
To subscribe via RSS Reader, please click here.
This volume is one of several in a new series of anthologies of articles that initially appeared in the Harvard Business Review, in this instance from 1960 until 2006. Remarkably, none seems dated; on the contrary, if anything, all seem more relevant now than ever before as their authors discuss what are (literally) essential dimensions of organizational and/or individual change.
More specifically, why transformation efforts fail (John P. Kotter), how to achieve change through persuasion (David A. Garvin and Michael A. Roberto), what can be learned from an interview of Samuel J. Palmisano about leading change when business is good, why radical change can be “the quiet way” (Barbara E. Meyerson), what “tipping point leadership is and does” (W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne), what a survival guide for leaders should provide (Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky), the real reason people won’t change (Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey), how to crack “the code of change” (Michael Berr and Nitin Nohria), the hard side of change management (Harold L. Sirkin, Perry Keenan, and Alan Jackson), and why change programs don’t produce change (Michael Beer, Russell A. Eisenstat, and Bert Spector).
Each article includes two invaluable reader-friendly devices, “Idea in Brief” and “Idea in Practice” sections, that facilitate, indeed expedite review of key points. Some articles also include brief commentaries on even more specific subjects such as “Dysfunctional Routines” (Pages 238-29), “Tempered Radicals as Everyday Leaders” (Page 64), “Adaptive Versus Technical Change: Whose Problem Is It?” (Paged 105), “Getting Groups to Change” (Pages 124-125), “Big Assumptions: How Our Perceptions Shape Our Reality” (Pages 132-133), “Calculating DICE [duration, integrity, commitment, and effort] Scores” (Pages 166-168) and “Tracking Corporate Change” (Pages 183-184).
These ten articles do not – because they obviously cannot – explain everything that one needs to know and understand about formulating and then executing effective change initiatives. However, I do not know of another single source at this price (currently $14.41 from Amazon) that provides more and better information, insights, and advice that will help leaders to achieve success in the business dimensions explained so well by the authors of the articles in this volume.
Not everyone can formulate what Steve Jobs characterizes as “insanely great” ideas but most people can generate good ideas, those worthy of careful consideration. For various reasons, many (most?) of these ideas are rejected…especially if they seem to threaten what James O’Toole characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead offer a method in this book by which to “save” a good idea from “getting shot down” and the method proposed is itself a good idea in that it is sensible, practical, and one almost anyone can follow. However, as presumably Kotter and Whitehead agree, it is first necessary to develop a mindset that embraces several principles:
• Those who oppose an idea should have the opportunity to explain their objections.
• Their participation in the discussion should be welcomed, and treated with respect.
• Before responding to an objection, reassure them that you understand it. Then offer a response that is direct, relevant, crystal clear, and sensible.
• Over time, win opponents’ minds with logic and evidence and their hearts with respect.
• Maintain frequent and cordial contact with opponents whom you respect; meanwhile, keep an eye on the few attackers who are potentially disruptive.
Note: Those you respect probably view them the same way you do. Retain an “open door” policy but keep in mind the African aphorism: “trust but verify.” Also, that reasonable people can agree to disagree without being disagreeable.
Kotter and Whitehead organize their material within two parts. “The Centerville Story” is a business narrative during which a “brave few” defend an idea in a crowd of 75, in a room for several hours.
Note: Kotter co-authored an earlier book, Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions, with Peter Mueller in which eight principles of decision-making under duress are effectively dramatized, in this instance by penguins in a specific setting.
There is also a specific setting in the first part of Buy-In but Kotter and Whitehead acknowledge, “we have found that the attacks shown in the story can be seen anywhere: with back-and-forth emails across continents; then people at lunch or in a classroom; a paper sent to a thousand employees; a series of two or twenty-two meetings; or dueling memos.” They are remarkably effective raconteurs.
In the second part of this book, “The Method,” Kotter and Whitehead become analytical, “showing explicitly what was happening in the story,” They identify four common attack strategies (i.e. fear mongering, delay, confusion, and ridicule of character assassination) and explain their method for avoiding or overcoming the strategies. They also identify and discuss 24 “questions and concerns” that most frequently come into play when ideas or proposals come under attack.
Although Kotter and Whitehead seem to have covered rather thoroughly the “what” of buy-in, their greatest achievement consists of the nature and extent of how brilliantly they explain the “how.” In the Appendix, they review “The Eight Steps to Successful, Large-Scale Change” (Pages 182-184) and I presume to suggest that this material not be read until after re-reading (at least once, preferably twice) what John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead have to say about The Method and the “Twenty-Four Attacks and the Twenty-Four Responses.” Most change initiatives fail and the reasons vary. However, none can succeed without (a) wide and deep buy-in among those in the given enterprise and (b) a shared sense of urgency to achieve the given changes.
Where to begin? Read this book and Kotter’s previous book, A Sense of Urgency.
Years ago, Stephen Covey suggested that many (most?) executives spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough on what is important. In Chapter 1 of this book, John Kotter suggests that, in fact, the problem is that many (most?) workers — including executives — do not have “a true sense of urgency [that is a] highly positive and highly focused force [and] the result of people, up and down the hierarchy, who provide the leadership needed to create and re-create this increasingly important asset. These sorts of people use a strategy that aims at the heart as well as the mind. They use four sets of tactics.” Kotter devotes the balance of his book to explaining what the strategy and tactics are, why they are essential to the success of individuals as well as to the success of their organization, and how those who read his book can execute the strategy and tactics to achieve the given objectives, whatever they may be.
It is important to note that, for many years, Kotter has conducted rigorous and extensive research of his own on employee engagement and has a wide and deep range of hands-on experience with hundreds of major corporations that were either planning change initiatives or had only recently embarked on them. In three of his published works (Leading Change, The Heart of Change with Dan Cohen, and Our Iceberg Is Melting), he explains why more than 70% of change initiatives fail. “The number-one problem [organizations] have is all about creating a sense of urgency – and that’s the first step in a series of actions needed to succeed in a changing world…Winners first make sure that a sufficient number of people feel a true sense of urgency to look for an organization’s critical opportunities and hazards now.” It is not that Kotter disagrees with Covey. On the contrary. If I understand what Kotter shares in this book, one of his key points is that workers must devote most of their time to what is most important…and do so by creating and recreating “a true sense of urgency” at all levels and in all areas.
In this context, I am reminded of a hospital emergency room. Its success requires adequate resources as well as a highly skilled staff with cross-functional capabilities. All of its members share “a true sense of urgency” when responding to all manner of health crises. More often than not, they are treating strangers about whom they know little (if anything) and sometimes must deal with a life-or-death situation. There is no time for complacency. Everyone must be fully engaged. For the ER team to be successful, its members must be both intellectually and emotionally committed to assist those entrusted to their care. There is no place on the team for anyone who is unwilling and/or unable to accept these responsibilities.
Kotter’s point (and I wholeheartedly agree) is that no team can succeed unless and until each of its members feels as well as understands “a true sense of urgency” and that is as true of executives and those on the shop floor as it is of ERs. “Get that right and you are off to a great start. Get that right and you can produce results that you very much want, and the world very much needs.” The other three tactics are best revealed within Kotter’s narrative, in context. Now I wish to shift my attention to some material in Chapter 6 as Kotter discusses two perspectives on the nature of crises. “The first group, by far the larger, sees crises as horrid events, and for obvious reasons.” Therefore, every effort is to avoid them or at least to prepare for them with comprehensive plans for crisis management and damage control. “A very different perspective on the nature of crises is described with the metaphor of a `burning platform.’ In this view, crises are not necessarily bad and may, under certain conditions, actually be required to succeed in an increasingly changing world.”
Which perspective is correct? “Neither,” Kotter responds, and then he explains various downside risks of a damage control mind-set or when using a crisis to reduce complacency and create. Again, what he recommends is best revealed within the narrative. However, I want to reassure those who read this brief commentary that Kotter fully appreciates the potential value of that contingency planning and crisis management. (He is a world-renowned expert on both.) He also clearly aware of problems that could occur when crying “Wolf!” in the absence of such a threat. In this context, his objective is to help his reader to understand how and why there are times when judicious use of created crisis can be appropriate.
That said, “any naiveté about the downside risks can cause disaster” and for that reason, he identifies and briefly discusses four “Big Mistakes” (Pages 136-141) and then suggests that crises can be used to create true urgency if eight principles he recommends are followed. (Please see Pages 142-143.) In a world in which change is the only constant and seems to be occurring at an every-increasing velocity, Kotter notes that “finding opportunities in crises probably reduces your overall risk.” It seems to me that in this chapter, Kotter explores a previously neglected dimension of crisis of management, and once again, he indicates still other applications of the eight-step pattern introduced in the aforementioned earlier books, Leading Change, The Heart of Change with Dan Cohen, and Our Iceberg Is Melting.
Although significantly different in most ways, all high-performance companies seem to have a culture in which a majority of those involved take pride in what they achieve but are convinced that there is always room for improvement, that they can always do better. They are never satisfied. They view mistakes, errors, detours, dry wells, blind alleys, etc. as valuable learning opportunities. Their change initiatives to sustain improvement tend to be customer-driven and with, you guessed it, “a true sense of urgency.”
Is this also true of your culture? If not, I urge you to read this book first and then each of the other three to prepare yourself to attract and engage others in urgently needed change initiatives. If not now, when? If not you, who?
I highly recommend 10 Must-Read Articles from HBR. The articles were written by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael Overdorf, Thomas H. Davenport, Peter F. Drucker, Daniel Goleman, Robert S. Kaplan, David P. Norton, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, John P. Kotter, Theodore Levitt, Michael E. Porter, C. K. Prahalad, and Gary Hamel, $29.95 and published by Harvard Business Press (2009).
The cost of this volume is about half of what the cost would be if all ten articles were purchased separately. There is also the matter of convenience: Having all of them assembled in a single volume. Each of these really is a “classic.”
The various HBR Article Collections save you time by synthesizing and distilling the essence of selected Harvard Business Review articles that, together, help you meet a specific management challenge. One-page overviews draw out the main points. Annotated bibliographies point you to related resources. Includes original HBR articles.
If you read nothing else, read these 10 articles from HBR‘s most influential authors: 1) “Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change,” by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael Overdorf, explains why so few established companies innovate successfully. 2) “Competing on Analytics,” by Thomas H. Davenport, explains how to use data-collection technology and analysis to discern what your customers want, how much they’re willing to pay, and what keeps them loyal. 3) “Managing Oneself,” by Peter F. Drucker, encourages us to carve our own paths by asking questions such as, “What are my strengths?” and “Where do I belong?” 4) “What Makes a Leader?” Not IQ or technical skills, says Daniel Goleman, but emotional intelligence. 5) “Putting the Balanced Scorecard to Work,” by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, includes practical steps and examples from companies that use the balanced scorecard to measure performance and set strategy. 6) “Innovation: The Classic Traps,” by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, advocates applying lessons from past failures to your innovation efforts. She explores four problems and offers remedies for each. 7) “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” by John P. Kotter, argues that transformation is a process, not an event. It takes years, not weeks, and you can’t skip any steps. 8) “Marketing Myopia,” by Theodore Levitt, introduces the quintessential strategy question, “What business are you really in?” 9) “What Is Strategy?” by Michael E. Porter, argues that rivals can easily copy your operational effectiveness, but they can’t copy your strategic positioning–what distinguishes you from all the rest. 10) “The Core Competence of the Corporation,” by C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel, argues that a diversified company is like a tree: the trunk and major limbs its core products, branches its business units, leaves and fruit its end products. Nourishing and stabilizing everything is the root system: its core competencies.
Cheryl offers: As practitioners of change leadership, our focus is not so much on the change management process itself as on what kind of leader is required to really create change that lasts. We love John P. Kotter’s book, The Heart of Change because it touches all aspects of change, including the need to get employees emotionally invested to create the energy needed to change. With the new “normal” of our economy, one thing I fear will not change is that as markets dictate consolidation, the percentage of Merger and Acquisition failures will remain constant. You see, acquisition happens. One company is bought by another. Seldom does a merger happen. Oh, assets get combined, leadership is chosen and redundancies eliminated; and the real heart of change that makes M&A’s worth the price paid is the MERGER of cultures. Most leaders pay more attention to the organization chart, press releases, and employment contracts than the real need to enroll employees in the changes. The fact is, about 70% of mergers and acquisitions fail. Almost 100% of the failures can be traced to not asking everyone to pay equal attention to the M as well as the A. Communication is the leadership’s responsibility in times of change; it becomes their legacy.
Sara adds: I was with IBM when it acquired Lotus. I coached a number of people on the Lotus development team and was struck by how victimized they felt. The acquisition had occurred, but for them, there was no merger. In the shadow of those memories, I turned to Adam Kahane, author of Solving Tough Problems . Kahane is known for his work in helping create unity in places like South Africa. He states, “There are two ways to unstick a stuck problem. The first is for one side to act unilaterally – to try imposing a solution by force or violence.” That’s how I read the press release in mergers like IBM acquiring Lotus or Oracle acquiring Sun Microsystems. Kahane goes on to add, “The second way to unstick a problem is for the actors to start to talk and listen in order to find a way forward together.” My opinion? Acquisitions are financial agreements to acquire assets; mergers require people to work with other people intentionally and creatively.
Q #105: Which books provide the best advice that C-level executives need when facing several of their greatest challenges?
In this series, Bob Morris poses a key question and then responds to it with material from one or more of the business books he has reviewed for Amazon and Borders.
In consecutive Q&As, I respond to these questions:
# 103: “What are the greatest challenges that C-level executives now face?”
# 104: “Which skills are needed to face each of those challenges?
# 105: “Which books provide the best advice for facing each of those challenges?
One man’s opinion, I think these books provide the best advice that C-level executives need when facing several of their greatest challenges:
Measuring performance accurately, fairly, and consistently
Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success, Dean R. Spitzer
The Performance Appraisal Question and Answer Book: A Survival Guide for Managers, Dick Grote
Attracting, training, and then retaining the best workers
The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late, Leigh Branham
Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay (4th edition), Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans
Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People, Revised and Updated Edition, Bradford D. Smart
“Growing” leadership at all levels and in all areas of operation
Strengths-Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, Tom Rath and Barry Conchie
Leaders at All Levels: Deepening Your Talent Pool to Solve the Succession Crisis, Ram Charan
Growing Great Employees: Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers, Erika Andersen
Engaged Leadership: Building a Culture to Overcome Employee Disengagement, Clint Swindall
Engaged! How Leaders Build Organizations Where Employees Love to Come to Work, Peter Stark and Jane Flaherty, Susan Suffes and Jessica Swift (Co-Editors)
A Sense of Urgency, John P. Kotter
Establishing and sustaining an “innovation culture”
The Art of Innovation, Tom Kelley
The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization, Tom Kelley with Jonathan Littman
Innovation to the Core: A Blueprint for Transforming the Way Your Company Innovates, Peter Skarzynski and Rowan Gibson
* * *
I apologize for the length of this Q&A but, honestly, I do not know what to delete.
Comments, questions, requests, or suggestions? Please share them. They will be most welcome and I thank you for them. Best regards, Bob