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Make Change Work

Make Change Work

“People want to be led through change, not managed through it,” says Randy Pennington. Processes are an important left-brain activity, but people want to be led into the unknown which is a right-brain and often messy activity.

Change leadership is a decidedly right-brained activity. When it comes to people, the shortest distance between two points isn’t necessarily a straight line. It is often a stroll or two around the block.

And that takes real leadership.

Change Leadership
Make Change Work by Randy Pennington is a change handbook informed by a good grasp of human nature. In other words, it is extremely helpful in implementing change in the real world with real people.

Pennington presents the well-reasoned, tactical side of change while incorporating the emotional—“it depends”—side of change leadership. It’s the human side that Pennington weaves in so well – and so clearly – that makes the tactics work. His approach helps you to understand what you are doing “big-picture” when trying to implement any change personally or organizationally. In that regard it is an invaluable book for anyone at any level.

Pennington deals with six fundamental principles that make it difficult for people and organizations to change:

  1. The ability to change is based on readiness. Intellectual understanding is not the same as emotional readiness. “Change agents have a unique ability to put a crisis into perspective while creating a sense of hope about the future.” It’s important to remember, “lasting change based on the immediacy of a crises is difficult to maintain.”
  2. Past experience influences perception, and perception influences every aspect of the change process. “Effective leaders help others understand and unload the negative stuff in their baggage to connect and engage them to actively participate in the change.”
  3. Adapting to change is really about managing disrupted expectations. The larger the disruption, the more challenging the task.
  4. Change always comes with a cost, even if the change was positive and you participated. Resistance is natural. “If there is no resistance there is no change….Pushing back against resistance creates barriers. Using questions to pull the resistance out provides opportunity to create context.”
  5. We live in a state of perpetual transition that prevents us from anchoring changes. “It isn’t the change that do you in, it’s the transitions,” wrote William Bridges. The idea of starting and ending change still works on some level, but more and more of the changes you are being asked to lead are continuous and never ending, says Pennington.
  6. Focusing on change management rather than change leadership places the focus on the process not people.

Pennington writes, "There is an adage that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. That happens because most of us are not very good at thinking clearly about the opportunities presented by change."

DodoWhy did Pennington choose the dodo bird on the front cover of his book? It’s instructive. Pennington says that to win at change leadership we need to embrace the coyote and run from becoming a dodo. The dodo birds never had a chance in a changing world. They:

  • Grew up in a stable, secure environment with no need to worry about predators or outside danger.
  • Lost the ability to expand its reach because of comfort and complacency.
  • Had no ability to distinguish predators from friends.
  • Lost or never developed the ability to adapt quickly to changing opportunities or threats (primary or secondary).
  • Never saw change coming or anticipated a different possible future, leaving itself with no time to adapt.

On the other hand, coyotes are known as:

  • Being opportunistic problem solvers with the willingness to adapt.
  • Possessing excellent vision and sense of smell.
  • Being speedy.
  • Valuing strong family groups that take care of their young.
  • Being versatile and willing to work alone, in teams, and even with other animals to succeed.

The dodo bird is extinct because it was perfectly suited to thrive in a world that ceased to exist when humans entered the picture. Coyotes, on the other hand, have flourished in a world where there are constant threats to its very survival because they continually adapt. Which one are you?

Leaders who can make change work will be in constant demand. Make Change Work is about how to lead change, not manage it. Excellent material.

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