Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bold changes require bold leadership

Learning & Innovation - June 28, 2008

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Bold changes require bold leadership

The big benefits I get from attending ASTD International Conference & Exposition are exposure to new ideas, learning from HRD thought leaders and practitioners from all over the world in formal sessions and informal chitchats with fellow delegates, access to service and product providers and freebies like books, magazines and the all-time favorite ballpens of all sizes and colors.

At least once a year I get a copy of Training Magazine. And the June 2008 issue had for an exclusive cover story Harvard guru John Kotter's penguin fable and on how to lead bold change. This is a good article because it was a Q&A and not just a review of the book. So I quote here some interesting parts of the interview (Dr. Kotter's answers) by writer Lorri Freifeld's equally interesting questions.

The other interesting features are: Keeping Forced Ranking Out of Court (on deploying the system in organizations effectively, consistently and fairly.)Sara Boehle, Across the Board (on how smart, seasoned executives and board directors benefit from training) by Gail Dutton, Certify Me (Holly Dolezalek), Meetings CPR (about compelling meetings) by Gail Dutton, How Secure is Your d

Ata? (help plug internal data leaks) by Kelly Shermach, and many others. Get a copy of the magazine and the book.

Lorri wrote: "The fable, Our Iceberg is Melting, is about an emperor penguin colony in Antartica. One day, a curious bird discovers a potentially devastating problem threatening their home (iceberg), but no one listens to him. The characters in the story all can be found in organizations around the world. Their tale is one of resistance to change and heroic action in the face of seemingly intractable obstacles.

"Dr. Kotter: Change is an anxiety-producing thing. We never cease to be amazed at the creative ways people invent to jump ahead and develop better futures for small groups, for large organizations, and for themselves personally. Humans can (sometimes) be even more clever than penguins.

"Organizations have problems with all the steps to successful change (increase urgency, build the guiding team, get the vision right, communicate for buy-in, empower action, create short-term wins, don't let up and make it stick), but most people often get it wrong at the beginning. They think they've moved beyond the first step, which is urgency. People around them seem to have it, but two levels down, they don't. Or they see people scrambling around--frenetic activity with meetings and projects--and think they are accomplishing something. But all that activity often is driven by anxiety or anger, not urgency. In addition, people scampering around the building don't see the complacency in the organization.

"In smaller companies, the more change programs can cover the whole organization--there's a direct analogy to the 250 penguins in the book. In global organizations, it's rare to move 42 million people in 72 countries a step to the left. Instead, it tends to work in pieces. They get something rolling and are noticed by other parts of the company. If you can get different rates of change going, the whole thing starts to move.

" Fears hold people back. They've seen people get whacked in the past or they think that things are working fine, so why change? Find a way to purposely disarm the fears. Humor is great for this.

"The point is there is no permanent iceberg. Life is going to change, so just get used to it. It can be fun. You're going to be moving. You may end up living on something other than an iceberg, but even that may turn into an iceberg. The ultimate solution--nomadic existence in which the penguins move from iceberg to iceberg--was an analogy that what sustains you is going to change.

"My iceberg now is that when you get good at something you are tempted to stay in that box forever. I'd like to help the world get 100 million people to lead organizations and their own lives better through the work we're doing. Another of my icebergs is convincing the people working with me to move forward with me. Then you have to identify the people around you and match them to characters.";

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