I recently read (and read again) a book by Charles Duhigg that got me thinking about the power of a single idea that can transform an entire business. The book is called The Power of Habit.
Here is a summary of one story in the book that made clear to me, the opportunity to lead powerful change.
On a blustery October day in 1987, a herd of prominent Wall Street investors and stock analysts gathered in the ballroom of a posh Manhattan hotel. They were there to meet the new CEO of the Aluminum Company of America–Alcoa. It was a company that for nearly a century had made foil wraps for Hershey kisses, the metal in Coca-Cola cans and the bolts that hold satellites together. Many in the audience had invested millions in this company. But in the past year, investors had started grumbling. Alcoa’s management had made misstep after misstep trying to expand their markets and customer while competitors stole them away.
There was relief when the board announced a new CEO, but that relief, at least today, was about to be turned on its head. Appointed to the post of CEO was a former government bureaucrat named Paul O’Neill. A few minutes before noon, O’Neill took the stage. He was 51 years old, trim, and dressed in grey pinstripes and a red power tie. His hair was white and his posture military straight. He looked dignified, solid, confident. Like a chief executive. Then he opened his mouth…
Only one in five employees are fully engaged. (Deloitte’s Center for the Edge: The Shift Index).
I personally view this video as a warning; the perils of over-rotating on a left-brained, rational approach to life, which removes context, meaning, and the big WHY of what we do. Passion and vision are largely missing in the world of work, and when they do exist in doses that are sufficient to stir our emotions, we often fail to realize their potential. We don’t connect the WHY with the HOW and the WHAT.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift…and the rational mind is a faithful servant. – Albert Einstein.
I live in an old stone house which was built between 1839 and 1849. In the 1970’s, an addition was added on, extending the original house with a large family room, extra bedrooms, a rec room, and two extra bathrooms. Over the past three weeks during my vacation, we’ve been working on upgrading the dated interior. This included:
Updating two bathrooms. These were stripped to bare walls and redone. The demolition had been done before the vacation, so all that was left was to repair floors, install tiled flooring, new tub, shower, vanity, toilets, and associated fixtures. Plumbing is not my favorite thing, and my plumber, like me, was on vacation, so I ended up doing it. The pipes are circa 1970, and waste pipes are all copper or cast iron. None of the sizes seemed to match the modern brass or PVC / ABS pipes so that created some adaptation problems. Continue reading →
A kata is a set of actions that are assembled in sequence to help you train your mind and body to perform with precision, proper form, and to help you develop muscle memory so that these forms are available to you without thinking. The word “kata” comes from the martial arts. At the Agile2011 conference there was a tutorial titled “The Agile Leadership Kata: Discovering the Practice of Leadership” by Tom Perry. We applied the kata to the practice of leadership. Slides form the session can be found here.
Stephen Denning refers to leadership communication as performance art. All performance requires practice. Katas are a practice tool. Why bother? As a leader, why does it mater if I practice? If my current set of leadership tools are working, do I really need to develop new ones?
Polar bears playing with dogs. Attuned right brains. Play as a driver for innovation. Great problem solvers are good with their hands. Full of interesting information that points to play as a practical tool for work and life. Tired of boring meetings? Try play – an out of the box suggestion in this video. Playing helps you think and do better – and helps build better teams.
Leading change requires change agents to exercise influence. Understanding individual motivations and assumptions matters. People come in different colors. Understanding each color and the motivations and assumptions that drive each one can help you get into the shoes of others, and consequently, help you understand how to best help them embrace change. There are five colors. There is no bad color or good color. Each color brings a different perspective, thinking style, and work style to the table.
Moving from a system designed for robustness to one that supports resilience represents a significant strategic shift. Whilst systems have commonly been designed to be robust – systems which are designed to prevent failure – increasing complexity and the difficulty it poses to fail-proof planning have made a shift to “resilience” strategically imperative. A resilient system on the other hand accepts that failure is inevitable and focuses instead on early discovery and fast recovery from failure.