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Managing Change: Inspiration, Art, Science, and Execution
Often, when trying to figure out how to "make things happen", your focus
switches between multiple targets.
What am I doing?
Why am I doing this?
How can I get the others to understand what I am doing?
Real change happens along a continuum that stretches from The Big Idea
to Real Results, and people / organizations that want to make real
change happen need to understand the different elements along the way.
Yes, I know - earlier, I suggested that one should pick a specific area
(people, process, or technology) to develop real skills in. Still true,
but what about those who aspire to leadership, who want to make change
happen across the organization? A single person doesn't need to be
expert in each of these areas - but leaders should actively work in all
of them. Aspire to be a jack of all trades, a master of none; the
ability to develop a vision, communicate it with impact, build something
actionable, and follow through with the implementation are bankable
skills that effective, impactful leaders need.
For each of these "elements", think of about their
- but also think of them
with the other elements of the continuum. A leader with an impractical
vision is just a dreamer; breakthrough science that is not well
communicated will just sit on the shelf.
: The ability to imagine what is possible (aka
). This doesn't have to be something as earth-shattering as Avatar or
the next iPad - businesses are crying out for "innovation" (sorry for
the buzzword) in areas as mundane as cost controls, Lean, and revenue
growth. Make no small plans, but have the courage and the energy to
stretch. Recognize the organization's practical limits - but don't sell
them short, they might surprise themselves (and you!)
: There is a fine line between imagination and inspiration; we need
something that can be implemented in our lifetime. Flights of fancy can
broaden your horizons, but you must eventually deliver real business
results. This is where you can enable acceptance of the 80/20 rule - a
practical vision that sees when enough is enough, that knows when to
trim down the requirements to get 80% of the value with only 20% of the
: Change often involves ideas, processes, or relationships that are
difficult to understand, simply because they involve remixing the As-is
with Something New, to create the Could Be. Sometimes it involves
- understanding a new structure, a changed process flow, or a hidden
trend in the numbers. Sometimes it involves
- an explanation or observation that needs just the right written or
spoken words to trigger understanding and acceptance.
: As goods and services are commoditized, and descriptive data becomes
freely available in deep detail, the value and importance of design
continues to grow. Well designed and executed words, pictures, sounds,
thoughts, and ideas are the competitive differentiators that businesses
always look for. Great leaders may possess acute verbal and/or visual
communication skills, but don't discount your abilities or overestimate
the pizazz required to make change happen in your organization. Just
invest time on a regular basis, thinking about the design of things you
see and hear every day. What images capture you eyes and your
imagination? How do some texts convey meaning without boring you to
: Sooner or later, you will have to create something that doesn't exist
- a new tool, a simplified process, an effective data visualization, a
useful report. This will always involve some specific "science" -
knowledge of a programming language, a drawing tool, a data query, a
report writer. At one point or another, sustainable change must manifest
itself as a repeatable, measurable process or event - and sooner or
later, you have to be able to translate your hand-waving to something
that actually works.
: Inspirational ideas need to find their way to the screen or the
printed page, so they can be communicated, and communicated again. The
best design ideas need to manifest in the final product. And the best
ideas must bridge from the tip of the pencil to something (a program? a
web site? a document? a project plan?) that can be executed. The best
leaders can still summon hands-on skills when needed; if you are in IT,
have you built something interesting in the past few months?
: The classic "rubber hits the road" - results derive from making
something happen. This could be the execution of a process, but can also
refer to the coordinated steps in a project plan that implements a new
system, or establishing rules, structure, and predictability where
previously there was random action. Science has created something, now
it's time to get it implemented - and, to make sure the promised results
: Starting a new process, stopping an old process, and bringing
structure where there is disorder are the typical end results of most
business projects, the ways that enterprises create value. However,
inertia and entropy are powerful natural forces, and blasting through
this is the way we've always done it ...
) often relies on a strong idea, communicated effectively and designed
Master of None
I think the toughest challenge for some entrepreneurs is to know when to
call for assistance. There is value in knowing everything about a single
the biggest vision! the best programmer!
), but sustainable success often comes to those who know when to call in
the experts. The best business results scale across multiple people,
teams, locations, business units, processes ... so why shouldn't the
best leaders scale across multiple resources?
Never stop learning, never stop improving your skills in all of these
areas - but know when to bring in the experts to see results that
surpass your expectations.