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James La Trobe-Bateman

Change happens naturally

Change without Change Management

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Change happens naturally

The business world is awash with change managers.  At Remodel International, we market ourselves as such,

…but maybe we shouldn’t.

Change management smells of somebody trying to change your mind.  And none of us likes to have our minds [forcibly] changed.

Being troubled about this has brought us to Frederic Laloux’s book ‘Reinventing Organizations’.  He says this about Change Management in his ideal company:

“…Here are two other terms I have not encountered even during the research: change and change management. That is rather extraordinary, when we come to think of it. Every manager knows that making change happen in an organization is hard. Change is one of the most frustrating, and therefore most widely discussed problems of management today. A whole industry of experts and consultants in change management has sprung forth to support managers in the trying journey of change…”

…and then he goes on the talk about a certain type of organization where no attention is paid to this “problem” at all. In fact, it isn’t an issue.


We won’t try to cover the preceding 213 pages of Laloux’s book in a short blog. Instead, take a look at another blog of ours which discusses the ‘Impactology Wheel’ – a model company that manages itself, follows its purpose and goes where that purpose leads, powered by people in it that themselves care about the purpose and find meaning in fulfilling it in that company.

Noticeably such a company is not ‘driven’ by shareholders, the board, a sociopathic CEO, or relies on change managers to make things happen.

Is Change Management Overdue for a Change?

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Change Management

There’s something ‘pushing boulders uphill’ about ‘change management’.

We want things to change, but people resist change, they say.

So we bring in change managers to help them. What are they ‘managing’ exactly?

Explaining? Persuading? Providing emotional support? Finding a few who like the new idea to champion it?

It all sounds difficult. In the case of Lean implementations, it is said to lead to a 75% failure rate.

In a world driven by the need to be efficient, why are we putting so much effort into getting those changes to happen? We assume that the value of the change will be greater than the grief to make it happen. And change managers are needed to reduce the grief.

So what else do you do?

You could approach the problem from the opposite end. Change managers traditionally start with the tasks that require to be changed and then tackle the minds that need to change accordingly. Or, you could start with minds. First, ‘loosen’ them up. Fixed minds mean fixed paradigms. Those fixed paradigms keep people firmly ‘on the rails’ and will not let them contemplate alternatives. A new way that would take them somewhere different, better.
What do you do to ‘loosen’ people’s minds?

We say that they need to grow in awareness. Awareness brings openness.
It’s a bit like this. You’re on a train crossing the country. You do not have to think about where you are going. The rails guide you. You can be preoccupied with chatting to your friends, watching a movie on your smartphone or eating a sandwich. How much of the time are you looking out or the window? And if you do, is it just like another movie to you?

Or can you imagine yourself being off the train and exploring somewhere new, not on the train’s route? A growth in awareness means that you take your mind off the distractions around you and pay attention to what is going on outside your train [paradigm]. Then you are going to be more inclined to think about being somewhere else, doing something different.

Growth in awareness is another phrase for personal growth: getting to know ourselves. When we know ourselves better, we are better able to understand others. When we better understand others, we are driven to do things that better everybody’s lives. In so doing we make that desired change happen.
I said ‘driven’ above. Motivated. Self-motivated. No need for a change manager to explain, persuade or support emotionally.

What then would you need them for?

Impact-ology Wheel - outside view

The Impact-ology Wheel

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Impactology Wheel

Corporations get a bad press.

Mostly because they seem to dehumanize the people who work in them and sometimes spoil the environment for others.  So how do you make corporations ‘more fit for human habitation’? That has been our mission.  But what does this really mean?

Well, we are going to get to that, but first we need think about the idea of a ‘corporation’…

In many ways, you can think of them as like people: some do good, some are self-serving, all are less than perfect, but all aspire to being better.

Corporations are co-operations.  There are other kinds of co-operations, of course, and what we say here applies to them. Like people, they are fundamentally good.  Our standard of living is due to the ability of people to work together for the benefit of others.  Pick almost any object or thing that you use every day and imagine how it could have been created without a group of people working together to make it happen.

So how do we focus on the good aspects of corporations?

Models are part of our business, so here’s a model:

Think of a corporation (/organization/education system) as a wheel rolling through life leaving the world a better place.

How does it work? How is it propelled? What’s it like to be part of it? Is it fun?

First: why do they exist? What is their ‘Purpose’?  Much is written today about having a clear purpose.  More than just a mission statement, although this is what you tend to see. It’s a ‘reason to be’ that requires imagination of a better world for at least some people.

To make the purpose real, people have to create and then provide some thing or service to someone outside.  Those in the company make a ‘Contribution’ which manifests as that thing or service.

When the product or service is delivered, it has an ‘Impact’. This is where the rubber meets the road.  That impact is initially on the customer.  However, there are ripples from that impact, after effects, you could say.

Impact is a neutral sentiment, but ‘Well-being’ is the feeling that you want.  If well-being increases, then the world feels a better place for those in it. That well-being ripples out to the customer’s family, community and the world at large.   If I buy a smart phone, I immediately feel good.  But then the community feels it when people are better connected. And then the world is better when people in remote areas can communicate where they could not do so before. The well-being left behind in the world as the smart phone corporation ‘rolls them out’ is immeasurable, but real.

Let’s talk more about those who work in the corporation.  Do they really feel all these things? Are they really clear about their purpose? Are they allowed to make a contribution? And do they like the working conditions? How is their well-being? Maybe if those employees fully realized the good they are doing, they would find meaning in their work and be motivated to do more.

If the answer to all these questions is a ‘yes’, then they will feel that they ‘Belong’. Think about it. That sense of belonging is the measure of how good that company is to work with and for.  It boils down to satisfying basic human needs: to have a reason to take part, to be able to contribute, to enjoy the journey with others and to find meaning in their work.

We all need some ‘Why?’, ‘How?’ and ‘What?’ [Simon Sinek has them in this order]

With belonging comes a greater sense of purpose and the wheel rolls on with greater contributions.

And so the wheel accelerates away, leaving more and more well-being in the world.

Notice some features:

The outer rim of the wheel is somehow inanimate, it’s just a machine.  But the machine is driven by a human motor.  Its heart is people. The heart is stronger when people Belong.

It’s what we call the ‘Impact-ology Wheel’.

Advice to Your 20 Year Old Self

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Professional and Personal Development

If you could go back in time, what do you wish your 20 year old self knew?

When you’re a professional, engineer or whatever, you think that development is about Professional Development. You are learning new techniques, going on all these professional training programs, all manner of things.

But, in fact, what I didn’t know until really quite recently is that in order to really advance in this world, you need to grow as a person not as a professional.

So I would be telling my 20 year old self to pay attention to Personal Development as much as professional development. Because at the end of the day I like to think of this. If there are ten of you and there is going to be one of you left.  Shall we say: the last one standing. Who’s that going to be? I think you’ll find that it’s probably going to be the most rounded, the wisest (or whatever word you want to use) person. Most people when they get to a point in their career where they resent so and so got promoted over me. Or I don’t know where I am going to go from here, because I don’t want to be one of ‘those kind of bosses’ Those kind of thoughts. You are really talking to yourself and saying ‘what have I not become that I need to become’ in order to be something different. Not necessarily the boss, but something different.

P.s. Hear the full context of these words in the Lean Effect Podcast with Mark De Jong

Read more about this in another blog post.

People are fly-by-wire

People Are Fly By Wire

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People are fly-by-wire

Why don’t we do what we say we want to do?

For example: “I want to lose weight, but then I didn’t”?

It’s because what you think consciously is not connected directly to what you do. Your steering wheel is not mechanically connected to your wheels. It’s what engineers call ‘fly-by-wire’. In an airplane, there’s something in between the joystick in the cockpit and the control surfaces. That ‘something’ interprets what you are asking, checks against built in programs that it is OK to do what you ask and only then follows the command.

We believe that when we say we’ll do something, we’ll do it. Actually, we know it is not quite as simple as this. What we don’t understand is why that ‘middle man’ stops us.

In the case of an airplane, the computer that stands between the joystick and the parts that move does some calculations to make the job easier and safer. If you move the stick to the left, in a conventional plane the plane would turn and dive slightly. With fly-by-wire, the computer adds some ‘up’ to the control surfaces to hold the plane at the same height. That makes it easier for the pilot. It all sounds good. But if you really want to fly outside normal limits, that computer is going to get in the way of your doing it and, in a way, thwart your efforts.

So it is with people. Under normal circumstances those programs (let’s call them ‘paradigms’) make life semi-automatic and keep you safe. When you want to make an unusual change, the paradigm puts up a resistance. Then, you don’t do what you said you were going to do.

So to make the change, you need to create a new paradigm and that takes more than just wishing it.

Lean six sigma improvements need improving

Where Is Lean and Six Sigma Going Next?

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Lean six sigma improvements need improving

If you are in the business of improvement, then you must use lean, 6 sigma or total quality tools.  Or you have no credibility.

But does it make you effective?

The lean movement outside Toyota has been around for 30 years and yet it still only scores about 25% success rate (ref 1).

Why doesn’t it do better?

Some say ‘try harder’.  Many say that the key part of the Toyota method is ‘respect for people’, ‘empowerment’ or something similar, and that this is still missing from most implementations.  We need more ‘soft skills’, supposedly.  And even if we had them, would we be able to fight the rising tide of shareholder power (“give me results this quarter”) over stakeholder power (“sustain and grow the community that the business feeds from and to”)?   Big issues that ‘trying harder at lean’ will not solve.

That’s the context.

What does it mean for those who practice lean?  Those whose job is to improve things?

One thing is for sure. You do not have job security.  If 3/4 of the time you fail, those accountants aren’t going to want to keep paying you.  I’ve certainly been there, although I jumped before I was pushed.

So what do you do…as an individual working as a change agent?

You have to take a different approach.  You should think about improving yourself, as a person rather than as a professional.  I mean Personal Development not Professional Development.  Not another 5S or Taguchi or Poka Yoke program.  I mean grow as a person.  More Tony Robbins than Shigeo Shingo.


Because those failures are failures to change people’s minds.  How do you do that if you can’t change your own mind? It starts with you.

Now I know that this is a scary thought for engineer types.  In fact, I have to admit that I ran screaming from a live 2 day Tony Robbins event after only 4 hours of it.  Luckily I have a partner who understood about Terror Barriers and the way through them.  We learnt a model for understanding this that can be taught and that people can internalize.

We live in an ever faster changing world.  You can see this in the strong reaction to it in all walks of life.  The world needs change agents more than ever.  But those change agents must be skilled in more than Lean.  Then they will be really valuable.

There’s some learning to do.  You need to get past your own terror, then you can help others.

Once you get past the terror, you will find freedom.

  1. Ignizio, James P. 2009. Optimizing Factory Performance: Cost-Effective Ways to Achieve Significant and Sustainable Improvement. 1st ed. Mcgraw-Hill Professional.