Change Ahead! Turn on the ‘GPS’.

In the Wizard of Oz, after a tornado swept Dorothy into a different time and place, she looked around and said to her little dog, “Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.”

Last week, I had a ‘not in Kansas anymore experience.’ I was standing in front of a camera and a large video screen in Budapest, Hungary, giving an interactive presentation to participants in Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Tunisia, Afghanistan, and Jordan. We were all linked together by state-of-the-art Cisco technology to discuss the future of their organization and its current decision-making challenges.

As each participant asked a question, the software’s voice activation seamlessly shifted the primary video window to place the current speaker in the center of the high definition screen and return the previous speaker to a small window at the bottom. There were no glitches or noticeable delays in the conversation.

On the flight to Hungary, I had just finished a new book by one of the world’s leading observers of change around the globe, Thomas Friedman. Its subtitle is An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations with hundreds of on-the-ground examples from the Seychelles to Silicon Valley that confirm the new normal. For the rest of our lives, the pace of change will increase, generated by a synergy of three forces: climate change, new technology, and global social/economic integration. In other words, no one is in ‘Kansas’ anymore.

My experience in Hungary seen through Friedman’s wide angle lens on global trends leads me to put this question in the center of your organization’s agenda.

“How can your leadership become unified in understanding the times and what must be done to thrive in an ever-more-demanding, continuously shifting environment?”

Last fall, Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature (a change no one saw coming!). In his anthem about tectonic cultural shift, “The Times They Are A-Changin,” he warns those who are not paying attention to the growing waves, “you better start swimmin or you’ll sink like a stone.”

To thrive in the Age of Accelerations requires leadership teams to move ….out of denial, …past habitual patterns, and …beyond playing catch up. Leaders must become proactive, guiding the organization to embrace, adapt, and move with the waves of change. The leaders needed for the Age of Accelerations are women and men in executive leadership and on governing boards who are always building unity, facilitating learning, and strengthening the capacity to adapt and work together in collaboration.

Friedman’s basic prescription to thrive is to develop and sustain community. Like it or not, organizations are a form of community where many of us spend a significant percentage of our lives. Leaders must accept the responsibility to be good stewards of the organization’s culture and health. Therefore, amidst accelerating change, it is up to leaders to be practitioners and teachers of a change mindset and a common language that unifies the organizational community stakeholders (internal and external) to “start swimmin” with the current.

I am always on the lookout for useful frameworks to share with my clients. I took the models of three international experts on organizational change and distilled the common action principles. If you are ready to engage others in the dialogue about your organization’s future, you can begin here.

  1. CONFIRM THE VISION – Leaders must help others see what success looks like and link the desired destination with the initiatives and changes needed.
  2. CONNECT EVERYONE TO THE LEADING EDGE – Leadership must be evangelical to spread the word and engage many in the necessary collective effort to adapt and grow.
  3. ADDRESS BARRIERS – Leadership must resolutely identify and focus the effort to overcome or remove the barriers (structure, attitude, skills, resources) that keep the organization in ‘status quo’ mode.
  4. CHANGE BEHAVIORS TO CHANGE MINDS – Belief in the possible future will not precede practical action. People need to deliberately practice their way into believing that it is possible to thrive amidst change. Leadership must keep the focus on key behaviors that can be changed to support a mental and emotional framework that will sustain the movement toward the vision.

(If you want the comparative list of these major change models, send me an email and I will get you a copy)


Practice Tip #12

Download the CPS (Change Positioning System) app For many of us, the GPS mapping app on our smartphone has become an essential part of travel. We are guided to any desired address by a visual and vocal guide that helps us confidently navigate. Organization leaders need to ‘download and install an app’ that gives the leadership team, staff, and board members, a practical resource to apply a clear set of values and action principles to successfully navigate toward a shared vision. Now more than ever, amidst the waves of change and uncertainty, every organization needs a map and compass. A clear statement of guiding values and action principles unifies and guides the organization, providing a directional positioning system for key decisions to keep ‘swimmin’ in the right direction.

Words of Wisdom

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
~ Nelson Mandela, nation builder

The only person who likes change is a wet baby.
~ Mark Twain, social critic

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
~ Maya Angelou, poet

It is the greatest discovery of my generation that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.
~ William James, pioneer of 20th century psychology