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Morning Feature: Change, Part III: How much, how fast?

December 18, 2010

Morning Feature

Morning Feature: Change, Part III: How much, how fast?

The one cent coin, which we commonly call the penny costs 1.7 cents to make.  Is this change we can believe in or is it a subsidy to zinc mining? Or are we just a foolish, sentimental people? But really, politically speaking, how much change can happen and how fast can it happen? Keep the penny in mind. (More)

The traditional wisdom:

The traditional wisdom about organizational change came from Bell Labs. They studied all sorts of small and large scale organizational/cultural change in the 60s and before. This was before the advent of computers and communication technology advances. This is when Bell Labs was one of the thought leaders in organizational development. They found two things to be true.

1. Most large social changes were conceived by individuals. The individuals found each other and became the core 5% of a movement. They went out and sold their idea(s) to others. If they achieved 20%, it was in essence a done deal. They studied women’s suffrage, prohibition and its repeal and other social changes.  The lesson, should this still hold true…get busy finding three more progressives to join every one of us and we’ll be almost home. Sometimes this phenomenon is referred to as the trim tab factor after that little part on the rudder of an ocean liner that allows it to turn.

“Buckminster Fuller referred to the function of a trimtab in nautical design as a metaphor for how individuals could make a difference in the world and potentially change the course of humanity.
 A large ship moving through the ocean has great momentum. Turning the rudder changes the direction of the ship but with great effort. Using a trimtab — a small flap on the trailing edge of the main rudder — creates a low pressure area next to the rudder allowing the main rudder to turn the ship with substantially less effort.” Source Buckminster Fuller Institute.

To put the trim tab into another perspective, keep in mind that it was designed to help turn a large ocean going vessel, not an easy task. In the old days, before thrusters it took three hours. But also keep in mind that the ocean liner had a single captain and was in no way hampered by the strange rules of the Senate and 100  Senators who would no doubt still be arguing about whether to turn right or left.

2. Two factors were significant in organizational change: the degree of commitment  and the sense of urgency. Change was defined as a new way of “this is how we do things.” If both factors were high it took 2 to 5 years to get 50% of the changes implemented and accepted. If either one was high and the other was low, it took 5 to 10 years. If both were low it took 20 plus years. (Think about the Reagan Revolution and how long it took to become accepted ideology and ‘the way we do things’ or think about things.)

Current wisdom:

Perhaps current wisdom about how much change is possible how fast offers us more hope. Communication technology has advanced a lot and after all, you are reading this in cyberspace. We may have higher speed connections, but we have so much information to choose from that perhaps our foci are more diffuse. Who knows?

The tipping point was a concept well before it was the title of Malcolm Gladwell’s book.

In physics it is the point at which an object is displaced from a state of equilibrium into a new, different state.  In epidemiology it is the point at which an incident becomes an epidemic based on momentum. In climatology it is the point where global climate changes are irreversible. Experts in these fields are encouraged to correct my paraphrasing of the hard science.

A recent example of transformational change: Good news about change-

In 2003 W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne  studied William bratton, NYC chief of police.  From their article:

“Yet in less than two years, and without an increase in his budget, Bill Bratton turned New York into the safest large city in the nation. Between 1994 and 1996, felony crime fell 39%; murders, 50%; and theft, 35%. Gallup polls reported that public confidence in the NYPD jumped from 37% to 73%, even as internal surveys showed job satisfaction in the police department reaching an all-time high. Not surprisingly, Bratton’s popularity soared, and in 1996, he was featured on the cover of Time. Perhaps most impressive, the changes have outlasted their instigator, implying a fundamental shift in the department’s organizational culture and strategy. Crime rates have continued to fall: Statistics released in December 2002 revealed that New York’s overall crime rate is the lowest among the 25 largest cities in the United States.

Bratton was special for us because in all of his turnarounds, he succeeded in record time despite facing all four of the hurdles that managers consistently claim block high performance: an organization wedded to the status quo, limited resources, a demotivated staff, and opposition from powerful vested interests. If Bratton could succeed against these odds, other leaders, we reasoned, could learn a lot from him.

In any organization, once the beliefs and energies of a critical mass of people are engaged, conversion to a new idea will spread like an epidemic.”

To read the entire article, click on Google translates this automatically to adobe acrobat. Chan Kim and Mauborgne studied Bill Bratton and determined that his results and methods for rapid and lasting change could be achieved by others using his methods. I am reasonably sure that they would say that such leadership can be trained. I highly recommend reading the whole article.

Here’s John Kotter of the Harvard Business School in 1996 and 2008:

“Although businesses are constantly going through change, leadership experts say that 70% of all change initiatives fall short of expectations

Kotter’s classic work describes eight reasons why organizations fail to change. These are:

1. Allowing too much complacency

2.  Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition

3. Underestimating the power of vision

4. Under communicating the vision by a factor of 10

5. Permitting obstacles to block the new vision

6. Failing to create short-term wins

7. Declaring victory too soon

8. Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture.

Ponder Kotter’s list in light of the current Senate performance. And lest you feel discouraged, ponder Obama’s accomplishments in less than two years, especially given the magnitude of the problems he faced.

Ponder now our roles as change agents. BPI is giving each of us a tool kit to act as change agents in our families and our communities. Maybe President Obama was right when he said, ”We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”  What if we took Kotter’s list and modified it for our own action agenda?

1. I will not be complacent. I will proactively engage in progressive causes and recruit others to join me.

2. I will join and build coalitions with other progressives.

3. I will communicate the pulling power of a vision where my country works well for all of its citizens.

4. I will relentlessly communicate our progressive values through examples and stories.

5. I will not be stopped.

6. I will sell our short term wins. Loudly and proudly.

7. I will persist.

8. I will not let our progress slip. I will work to maintain our achievements.

Back to the penny. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “A penny for your thoughts.” We will convert Fred to our values if we truly listen to him/her and engage with open minds and open hearts. If each of us recruits three more people and they recruit three more people and on and on, pretty soon we’ll have a real movement. The real answer to how much change, how fast depends on each of us. You may be saying, “But I’m not a leader.” Maybe not, but every movement needs and depends on enthusiastic followers. Try that first.

I leave you with the Shirtless Dancing Guy Theory of Leadership.

The Shirtless Dancing Guy Theory of Leadership – Transcript:

Leadership is over-glorified.

Yes it started with the shirtless guy, and he’ll get all the credit, but you saw what really happened:

It was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader.

There is no movement without the first follower.

We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective.

The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.


Part I of this series: Thursday Morning Feature: Change, Part I – Vision and Change

Part II of this series: Friday Morning Feature: Change, Part II – Vision, Empowerment and Creativity

  • J Brunner fan

    Thanks Addisnana,
    Excellent series, will have something to say that is thoughful tomorrow.

    Hope you and everyone has a good day and a mighty fist bump to you all!

  • JanF

    I love the shirtless dancing guy theory of leadership and that snippet from the transcript:

    Leadership is over-glorified.
    Yes it started with the shirtless guy, and he’ll get all the credit, but you saw what really happened: It was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader.

    There is no movement without the first follower.

    We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective.
    The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow

    The first follower truly did have courage because he did not know what was going to happen. Would he be tarred with the same “he’s crazy” brush as the lone “nut”? Or would he become part of something bigger that could change things for the better.

    I think of our BPI Progressive values and your Fred Whispering successes and how we can make a difference as we grow.

    Thanks for this great series, addisnana. I want this as an action list:

    1. I will not be complacent. I will proactively engage in progressive causes and recruit others to join me.
    2. I will join and build coalitions with other progressives.
    3. I will communicate the pulling power of a vision where my country works well for all of its citizens.
    4. I will relentlessly communicate our progressive values through examples and stories.
    5. I will not be stopped.
    6. I will sell our short term wins. Loudly and proudly.
    7. I will persist.
    8. I will not let our progress slip. I will work to maintain our achievements.

    Very non-cynical and very energizing. Right now we have had some setbacks (major understatement) but rather than scream about it, we can go about the work we have started to maintain our progress and be ready to hit the ground running when it is the turn for our movement to grab the reins again.

    Because our movement is still moving forward.

  • LI Mike

    Great stuff, Addisnana.

    If I may, I just played the role of the 2nd guy — the main follower.

    Shortly after the election I received a call from someone I met through OFA. He mentioned that his key issue is corporate money in politics, that he’s been following the issue at and that he’d like to organize something public to get a higher profile out here. I met with him and his idea is to show Casino Jack at a local theatre, invite local activists, have a Q/A and possibly develop an action plan.

    I introduced him to a bunch of people and he is scheduled to speak at the next Dem breakfast about the movie idea.

    Fortuitously and independent of us, Cong Tim Bishop just had an op ed yesterday in LI Newsday about campaign fin reform.

    • revgerry

      Great work, LI Mike. This is exactly what I mean when people complain that the President hasn’t yet changed the country (enough). I am a Dean Democrat who caught the vision that WE are the change agents. No President can succeed if we merely vote and go back to sleep…or worse.

      • LI Mike

        Thanks revgerry

    • addisnana

      The second guy is critical and I bet the OFA guy picked you for some very good reasons. I’d pick you too.

      I hope that more and more of these things on a local level begin to give people a constructive outlet for some of their anger. Anger can be a wonderful motivator to get people involved but if all they become is an angry mob then it doesn’t help produce changes that will make life better and “fix” some of the causes of their anger.

      The more I learn about Bishop, the more impressed I am.

  • LI Mike

    Woo Hoo. Great series Addisnana.

  • LI Mike

    On William Bratton. His brief but successful career as NYC Commissioner may have been less brief and more successful if not for Rudy Guiliani’s ego.

    • addisnana

      You mean Mr. Noun, verb, 9/11?

      One of my nieces was married at St. Patrick’s in NYC. When it was time to pass the peace and I turned around, there was Rudy. I will say he was fun to talk baseball with. That is about the only nice thing I have to say about him now.

  • addisnana

    There are many people who I would follow here. I don’t think any of them are lone nuts though.

    • JanF

      No. That was probably the one thing about the video that was discordant. His choice of “lone nut” as the words to describe the first guy. I would like to find a better choice of words.

  • addisnana

    I had a long and as I remember it, thoughtful comment which was deleted by my granddaughter who once again found the popcorn video. She has memorized the audio and I wish I could see the face of the next person who gives her popcorn and hears about the endo whatever and just how popcorn explodes.

    Reinforcements have arrived. Son is now making breakfast. I may collect my thoughts later.

    • JanF

      Ha. Are you talking about the popcorn video I posted in Campus Chatter last night? That was really cool, wasn’t it? Sorry to provide distractions … NOT.

      • revgerry

        I am so sad to miss most all fun (and serious) video because we can’t get enough bandwidth out here. Cable and phone companies won’t make enough profit to run high speed lines to our house. 🙁 (Expensive – $90/mo) Satellite has a limit on daily downloads that I often use up just surfing.

        Not grateful for Digital Divide.

        • JanF

          Bummer. Us city folk get spoiled.

        • addisnana

          I usually am on a Verizon USB card which goes between dial-up and broadband. The way Jan embeds the videos, even I can watch them. Give it a try at least.

          • revgerry

            Addisnana, please say more, what is this USB card, what is the monthly cost for the broadband, and can it be shared with a USB hub. I am not the most tech savvy person you will meet.

            • addisnana

              You buy it at Verizon stores or BestBuy. It plugs into the USB port on your computer. I have a laptop. It is somehow a phone inside that small plug-in. I pay $59.00/mo for unlimited usage. It works at my summer job camp hosting in the National Forest 10 miles south of the Canadian border and it works in rural Nebraska. Some videos pause once in a while but Jan has a way of embedding that makes them easier for me to view.

              I am not a geek either gerry but this works well for me.

        • JanF

          I do embed the videos with all of the detritus removed. If that helps them run faster, that would be great. It could also be that this site does not have the type of traffic that other sites do and the, at least for now, streaming will be faster.

  • revgerry

    addisnana, what a terrific and thought-provoking series, thank you so much for it.

    I am thinking perhaps the vision of a country that works for all Americans is widely shared in both the open-hearted and outrage-driven progressive “sphere. I am trying to develop a concept of a movement that values/honors/respects all people, including those we disagree with.

    Dalai Lama: “Peace of mind… is rooted in affection and compassion and is sensitive and responsive to others.”

  • DBunn

    Terrific series, addisnana.

    It has often been said that progressives are not good followers. Going by the evidence of the decay of Daily Kos post-2008, I’d have to say there’s some truth to that. But if we look at progressive change in the first half of the 20th century, it didn’t seem to be true back then. I wonder what changed. (Please limit your replies to 2000 words or less. Due a week from Monday 🙂 )

    One tentative explanation of the above (I expect there are many contributing factors) is that we seem to be rather sharp-eyed. This is often a good thing, of course– but it also enables us to detect, and then fixate on, relatively small particles of “failure” within an avalanche of success. Or to use a nautical metaphor, in context of massive course change that greatly improves the direction of the ship of state, we progressives may perceive that an even better course change ought to be possible. We don’t agree among ourselves on exactly what the very best course might be– could be 10 degrees more to the north, or 20 degrees more to the south, whatever– but we all agree that the captain has not yet gotten us onto the very best course. United in this disappointment with the captain, we then fall to disparaging and berating him, and more and more of us come closer and closer to the emotional conclusion that anyone would be better than this weak, dim, out-of-touch, or treacherous turkey. The increasingly likely result is that he is replaced with some other captain who, no surprise, takes the ship into a 180 degree turn, going exactly backwards from what we need.

    Please forgive that rather bitter parable on a non-cynical Saturday.

    Switching metaphors once again, my experience of child rearing is that you’ll get better results by modeling and rewarding good behavior than by punishing bad behavior. Also, that consistency and follow-through over a period of years are necessary for real progress to be made– if you’re full of praise one day, and disparagement the next, the kid will not trust you, nor should she. If she raises her grade from an F to a C-minus, do we celebrate that accomplishment, or berate her for not getting an A? If we choose the latter reaction, she will conclude that there is no point in trying to please us, and tune us out from that point forward. But if we choose the former, and provide encouragement and support for further improvement, she may eventually turn in a solid B+ average. Pretty good!… and way better than an F.

    • addisnana

      It feels like lots of people are scared and disappointed in the direction our ship is heading. Not just angry and venting progressives but also angry and venting tea baggers and disillusioned folks everywhere. Perhaps the polls have never really asked the right questions.

      People sense that they are either losing ground economically or at best somewhat tenuously hanging on. The years of conservative economic policies of protecting and rewarding corporations and the wealthy have left the majority of folks treading water.

      I believe that all those folks are potential progressives and that we, the dancing followers can enlist them to join us.

      • revgerry

        I agree with that, addisnana. In fact FEAR (leading to outrage and cynicism) seems to be the driving force all over the political spectrum. We do not help when we promote more fear and outrage, IMHO. This fear has been building for years, consciously driven by corporate message-masters, who are well aware they increase profits using this artifice.

        I have discovered in my personal life that gratitude (counting my blessings one by one, consciously shifting my internal framing), and compassion (consciously working to understand the deeper needs of those persons I disagree with (corporations by definition are soul-less) go a long way towards dispelling fear.

        If I can dispel MY fear, well, then there is one less person contributing to the problem, who has a clear head to determine right action.

    • JanF

      DBunn – I found an interesting post on another progressive site about the decay of DKos since 2008 that may make you see it in a different way. There is some question on whether or not it was a more or less planned transition from “thoughtful discourse” to “page-hit-generating pissing matches”.

      Progressives don’t follow too well but we react to a poke in the eye about the same as most humans do. If you follow Norbrook’s post from earlier in the year (linked into his piece) you will see that the site was “cleansed” pretty well.

      The comment thread is illuminating also.

      I will still put my money on Progressives to get together when we need to and do what we have to do.

  • NCrissieB

    Picking up on my comment from yesterday, leadership by empowerment requires followers who are willing to take risks. President Obama announced that he would lead by empowerment: “Be the change you seek,” “Change comes from the bottom up, not from the top down.” But as I noted in a late comment to yesterday’s Morning Feature, the Great Recession sucked the courage out of ordinary Americans. The Great Recession left most of us one bad outcome away from serious hardship … and that makes rational people risk-averse.

    We can still ‘get there.’ But we have to encourage each other and be persistent.

    Great series, addisnana. 🙂

    Good afternoon! ::hugggggs::

    • addisnana

      Thanks Crissie and I am looking forward to your return. You make this series stuff look so easy. I took your earlier advice and kept saying, “butt in chair” to myself. You forgot to say exactly how all those jumbled ideas between my ears would organize themselves on the way to my fingers on the keyboard.

  • DWG

    Speaking of celebrating wins, the repeal of DADT brought out a fair number of dismissive diaries over at the Great Orange Satan. Most of those sailed down the recent list with few recs and many negative comments, but it still highlights the all-or-none mindset among some folks. I can understand why folks are unhappy about the welfare for the wealthy tax cut bill, but why some grumble about a clear success is beyond me.

    • JanF

      Obviously there are a fair number of people who can’t take “YES” for an answer. Our Progressive victories should each be celebrated … not for what they weren’t but for what they are.

      DADT Repeal is a huge victory and a definite movement of the Overton Window … to the left.