A Year Ago

A year ago this week I returned with my family from living abroad for a few months.  Arriving home to the trappings of Thanksgiving and Black Friday was an explosion to the senses.  Everything felt refreshed.  It had take a couple months to break routines and focus on a different approach.  A year later I am able to measure what new ways of being have moved forward and which did not stand the test of reintegration.  It has been a powerful experience to adventure in the arena of change.



No matter the storm that has you pinned down on a mountainside, it cannot undo the miles hiked, the scenery captured, the topics explored in conversation, the expansion of your world map.  No matter the headwinds that blow against you, it cannot undo the miles pedaled, the high speed descents, and the cols climbed.  If you find yourself off the map it cannot undo the journey that has taken you to this place, the canyon walls echoing your thoughts and the river singing your praise.  An experience once embedded in your spirit is yours.  It rewards you with permanent change in exchange for your exploration.  You may leave no trace of your journey through the wilderness but it has left its mark indelibly on your soul.

Right Gear

Photo Credit

Almost any rider of a bike knows the importance of gear selection.  Up the hill you shift to an easier gear and downhill the chain is best moved to a harder gear to maximize the output of energy.  A little trial and error is all we need to renforce this idea.  

Amazing how many enterprises stay in the same gear their entire lifecycle.  Many fearing changing what they know how to do best despite the upcoming terrain or wind direction.  Why not allow the cause to accelerate when the tailwinds blow?  Is there concern about running a more conservative budget when the road ahead looks lumpy?  Your cadence (rpm) may stay the same but the gear you use can make all the difference.

Same Seats!

Walking through the parking lot today I encounter group of students returning to their van from a school field trip.  From the back of the loosely formed pack I distinctly heard the shout, ‘same seats!’  Another student chimed in with a similar response and so it was decided by a voice vote that the motion for same seats carried.

The mentality of same seats is easy to embrace.  It preserves the known and controls the immediate future.  If I like my seat then I am lucky.  If I was neutral on my seating options then I am probably part of the silent majority.  Only the few who were slammed in the seat by the wheel well or next to a less than appreciated seatmate are the vocal minority. 

The ‘same seat’ flashback reminded me how young I was when I learned how to manage change.  How much of this elementary school organizing strategy has carried over to my work and that of enterprises I serve?  Do we literally sit in the same seats at board meetings?  I worked with one organization that placed a customized tea or coffee mug at each person’s seat prior to the meeting and it was clear where the power resided (just watch whose tea was brewed first).  Are meeting agendas as structured and preserved in tradition as the coronation ceremony for a monarch?  Does our budget look the same every year with just a few adjusted numbers?  Are the same faces tackling the same conversations?  Has our mission statement stayed the same since it is etched into stone?  Do we continue forward with the same programs because our founders established them?

I wonder how many causes carry forward with the ‘same seat’ mentality because it leads to a sense of certainty.  What if we yelled, ‘everyone off the bus’ and took stock of who and what we had on-board.  Happy travels. 

Looking for some innovative ways to manage change, check out the Heath brothers latest book, Switch.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Free Space

I walked into a Barnes & Noble and was amazed to see the transformation that has taken place.  Missing were the bookshelves with best sellers that had greeted me upon entering.  New shelves with greeting cards, writing supplies and toys filled one corner of the store.  Lego roams where classic literature once held court.  A couple of tables that appeared similar to an Apple Store displayed a hands-on area to test the Nook e-reader.  A Starbucks in the middle was clearly the busiest portion of the enterprise.  As I departed through the movie and music section, I was wondering how the Redbox across the street was impacting sales.  On one side, Barnes & Noble was embracing the e-reader with a commitment to the online delivery format.  On the other side the company was holding firm to the traditional sales approach to selling CD and DVD.

In the social sector, we have been quick to adopt social media and ‘donate now’ buttons on our homepages.  We have been more reticent to leave some methodologies.  For example, I often hear how labor intensive and exhausting an organization’s last strategic planning process turned out.  I will offer new models and encourage a more inspired and engaging approach.  Many times the initial reaction from the enterprise is to reluctantly suggest they should stick with the tried and true, no matter that it means torture by boredom.

Is it change we resist or is it our loyalty to the known?  What leaps of faith have you made that have reaped great rewards?  What is the least amount of change you could take that would have the greatest impact?


I competed in a running race today that was memorable.  Smokey the Bear was waiting at the high point with great view overlooking the city.  You could stop and have your picture taken at the 4.5 mile turnaround with Smokey and it was all downhill from there.  Plenty of running races exist but by adding this one element the race director made this event stands out from all the others.

What is the smallest amount of change that would have the most significant impact on your organization?


Being prepared for change is never easy.  No matter how much we try to anticipate future events there always seems to be something that comes out of left field.  One of the advantages of developing a strategy screen (a series of filters that allow you to assess real-time opportunities or challenges) is that it provides a checklist and a grounding rod during uncertain times.

In the past week I have spoken to a few social sector organizations who are dealing with unanticipated events.  Some had a checklist in place and others are formulating one before taking action.  A well reasoned strategy screen provides guidance and focus.  It allow us as an organization to put events into context.  It aligns an organization’s thinking and response to the rational.

How has your enterprise dealt with change?  What has worked and what has caused challenges?