Leading Change Infographic

When I ask people to define effective leadership I get a wide array of answers. However, they often share a common them and it is something called change. Change is a catalyst that seems to require a bevy of leadership skills; communication, courage, concern for people and strategy (to name a few). This principle was recently revisited when I spent time with a talented group of people.

Last week I was privileged to spend a day leading a workshop for the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce. This newly formed entity is a result of the merger of three separate Chamber of Commerce offices in our valley. It is a progressive and logical decision to amalgamate three similar, small-sized enterprises. However, the logistics and leadership involved in this merger is no small feat! During their first formal post-merger board retreat, much of their time together focused on various aspects of leading change.

For many participants, a key ‘aha’ moment of the day occurred when I presented the chart below. It outlines five fundamental ingredients which are required to lead change. Similar to baking a cake, if an ingredient is missed, the cake won’t bake properly (see Baking a Cake with One Ingredient).  From a change leadership perspective, this chart helps us identify what will occur when we fail to include all of the necessary ingredients in a change process. It is also a simple means by which to diagnose change efforts that are not going well!

Leading Change Chart

While it is tempting to spend time describing the content of this chart, it really needs no explanation. This is why it resonates so quickly with people when I use it. However, the diagnosis is often easier than the remedy. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution and lasting change will require a lot of time and intentional leadership.

I’ll conclude with a few simple questions. In your experience with change, which of these ingredients is most often missed? Which one is the most challenging to provide? Which one is your ‘sweet spot’ (the easiest)? Finally, which one is your ‘sour spot’ (the hardest)?

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com



The Difference Between Complicated and Complex

I hear the word complex a lot. It helps us describe things like the paradoxical global village. It explains the rapid pace of change. It justifies lifestyles filled with too little time. However, when we use the word complex, we usually consider it a synonym of another word – complicated. A recent article helped me understand that there is an important difference between them (Steve Moore).

Complicated – Something with many interconnecting parts. Intricate. Example – Imagine a rigorous math problem on a white board. This is complicated.

Complex – A system of interconnected parts that constantly change. Fluid. Example – If an ocean beach lifeguard leaves their tower for 30 minutes, they may come back to a very different scenario.

I believe that a shift towards complexity is an important trend of our era. It is our new normal. Personally and organizationally, we are encountering more complexity. Most of my conversations with clients and business leaders reveal complex problems like:

  • Working with an intergenerational workforce,
  • Developing strategy which will be effective in five years,
  • Improving organizational culture, and
  • Increasing organizational alignment.

As a result, I believe that we must place an increased emphasis on addressing organizational complexity. We must also equip ourselves with the right tools to solve complex challenges.

An old adage states that to a three year old with a brand new hammer, everything appears as a nail. The principle behind this maxim is different challenges require different solutions. If we try to solve complicated issues by using complex solutions it is like using a hammer to insert a screw. If we try to solve complex problems with complicated solutions it is like smoothing drying cement with a screwdriver.

Here are some simple ways to differentiate the challenges you encounter:

Complicated and Complex Graphic 1

If these differences are true, then we must do two things. First, we must correctly identify the problem we are encountering – is it complicated or complex? Next, we need to assign the problem to an individual or team which is equipped with the correct skillset to solve the problem.

Complicated and Complex Graphic 2

Complicated problem solvers are people like Albert Einstein or Henry Ford. Complex problem solvers are people like Desmond Tutu or Elon Musk. We must avoid the temptation to prioritize the importance of these roles. They are of equal value. They simply exemplify the need to use different skills for different challenges.

We live in a complicated world. We also live in a complex world. I believe that, in general, our educational model trains most effectively for complicated problems. Furthermore, an increasingly interconnected world will require us to develop our complexity muscles.

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Jeff Suderman is a complex futurist, consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Sources: Steve Moore (2012). Seize the Vuja de.  Missio Nexus.



Change Agents: The personal characteristics required to navigate change

In the class I am teaching on organizational development, my students are studying how to facilitate change, both personally and organizationally. Part of this process has included discussion about the attributes of people who are good at leading change.

Based on our dialogue, here are four attributes of people who effectively facilitate change:

1. They are willing to be wrong. It takes courage to acknowledge that you are wrong. However, a lack of willingness to do so creates a barrier to change. As Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”.

2. They embrace learning. Some individuals derive a lot of enjoyment from learning new things. As a result, mistakes are a required ingredient in learning new ideas. Bill Nye (the Science Guy) exemplifies this when he states, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t!”.

3. They know how much they don’t know. This relates to my first point about courage but focuses on the attribute of humility instead. It takes humility to acknowledge how much you don’t know. I experienced this a few months ago when a friend gave me a back-handed compliment. He stated, “I enjoy being with you more than I used to because you are less certain of things”. I trust that reflects personal growth in realizing how much I don’t know!

4. They have a thick skin. Sometimes you have to be tough when you learn hard lessons. John Piper once noted that you will never make it if criticism disables you (thanks to Marissa for this great quote and idea). At times, change will require you to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again.

In summary, courage, enjoying learning, humility and toughness are all ingredients of people who are good at facilitating change. What are some other attributes you would add to this list?

Jeff Suderman is a professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California.

Piper, J.  (2011). The Marks of a Spiritual Leader (p. 25)