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Foreword, Preface, and Introduction to More Fearless Change: Strategies for Making Your Ideas Happen

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Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising introduce their book, More Fearless Change: Strategies for Making Your Ideas Happen, which covers techniques for implementing change in teams of all sizes, and demonstrates how to use these techniques effectively.
This chapter is from the book

Foreword by Tim Lister

On first noting this book’s title, you might mistake More Fearless Change as a follow-on to Fearless Change, Linda Rising and Mary Lynn Manns’ previous collaboration—but if you have not already read Fearless Change, don’t put this book down to hunt for it first. More Fearless Change is written to stand alone as a collection of tactics and strategies for you to employ to increase your odds that the change you want can make it all the way from bright idea, through fruition, to “the way it is.”

More Fearless Change is not a recipe book for change. Rising and Manns are far too experienced in these matters to oversimplify the situation. It is a book of patterns—nuggets you pick up and inspect—and it is up to you to decide if one or another nugget would be helpful in communicating your particular idea campaign within your organization. The tactics and strategies are not specific to any organization type. If you see a need or an opportunity to improve the long-term health of your organization, and you want to see your idea through, and you are willing to work at it, I believe that More Fearless Change, as a coaching guide, can provide the key.

Actually, I would suggest that you read More Fearless Change twice, each time from a different perspective. First, try reading the book from the relatively safe perspective of you as change agent: You see a need for change, and you have an idea that will facilitate that change. You need to convince those around you to join in, to invest in your idea, and to nurture it to full benefit.

Now from the scary view: After your first read, don’t pick up More Fearless Change for at least a week. When you start rereading, imagine yourself not as the change agent, but as a change recipient. If you have been in this business a while, you can probably choose a real occurrence from your own experience; if not, go ahead and invent one.

Imagine, for example, that your job is being outsourced, and your company would like to outplace you as an employee of the outsourcee, which is located in <pick a distant place that does not thrill you>. You see that these requests are basically reasonable. You understand the business case the company is making. You see that this is absolutely not a case of Bad People Behaving Outrageously. You get that. So, how do you want to be treated? Which information do you expect, and from whom? Which promises would you ask for? Which time frame do you want to decide your path?

In the context of the real world, More Fearless Change reveals itself like a 3D stereogram. First you see it as a book to help you advance your ideas, then as a book to help you understand the complexities of how people react to proposed change.

Rising and Manns are the voices of honesty and fairness as they treat what is usually called change management, but it is not change “management” they are talking about. Theirs is a campaign for change, and their book is about changing the minds and behaviors of smart, emotional, real people, each of whom carries personal and career experiences from his or her past. What they address is not management, and therefore it is most worthwhile for all of us to look for help. Now turn the page. You can always read Fearless Change later.

  • Tim Lister
  • The Atlantic Systems Guild
  • New York, August 2014

Acknowledgments

Thanks to our shepherd, Joe Bergin, and to our PLoP ’08 writers workshop members: Takashi Abi, Miguel Carvalhais, Christian Crumlish, Dick Gabriel, Josh Kerievsky, Christian Kohls, Ricardo Lopez, Pam Rostal, Lubor Sesera, and Steve Wingo.

Thanks to our shepherd, Klaus Marquardt, and the members of the “People” writers workshop at PLoP ’09: Takashi Abi, Marco Hernandez, Jeff Hutchinson, Lise Hvatum, Christian Kohls, Jake Miller, Karl Rehmer, and Robert Zack.

Thanks to the members of the MiniPLoP ’09 writers workshop: Ademar Aguiar, Brian Foote, Dick Gabriel, Ralph Johnson, Rick Mercer, and Joe Yoder.

Thanks to our shepherd Christian Kohls and the members of the PLoP ’10 writers workshop: Paul M. Chalekian, Lise Hvatum, Kevin Kautz, Joshua Kerievsky, Bill Opdyke, Karl Rehmer, Rebecca Rikner, David West, and Raul Zevallos.

Thanks to our shepherd Eugene Wallingford and the members of the SugarLoaf PLoP ’12 writers workshop, including Joe Yoder, Christina von Flach, Sérgio Soares, Marília Freire, Daniel Alencar, and others.

Thanks to Michael Neelon, Associate Professor of Psychology at University of North Carolina–Asheville, for his invaluable assistance with the Emotional Connection pattern.

Thanks to the MLA 540 students at UNC Asheville who helped draft the Sunset Lake story.

Thanks to Alan Dayley for his great story, “Losing My ‘Champion Skeptic.’ ”

Thanks to Jutta Eckstein for being a good friend and long-time supporter of our work and for sharing her research with us for this book.

Thanks to our long-time friends and supporters Joe Bergin and Fred Grossman at Pace University and their team of students: Stephanie Feddock, Michele Kirchhoff, Nader Nassar, and James Sicuranza.

About the Authors

Mary Lynn Manns is a management professor at University of North Carolina–Asheville, where she was recently awarded Distinguished Professor of Social Relations for her work in change leadership. She has a Ph.D. from De Montfort University in Leicester, United Kingdom, where her thesis focused on the introduction of patterns into organizations. She has continued her work with numerous presentations at a variety of conferences and in organizations that include Microsoft, amazon.com, Avon, and Proctor & Gamble. Her publications include Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas, co-authored with Linda Rising. At her university, she guides students of all ages in learning the tools (patterns) for leading change and competing as social entrepreneurs. In 2013, Mary Lynn was the commencement speaker who transformed the typical model of speeches by encouraging the graduates to take the first steps toward changing the world as they got off their seats to dance. In her spare time, Mary Lynn helps individuals make personal change by leading “Zumba for People with Two Left Feet” workouts.

Linda Rising is an independent consultant based in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee (just east of Nashville). She has a Ph.D. from Arizona State University in the field of object-based design metrics and a background that includes university teaching and industry work in telecommunications, avionics, and tactical weapons systems. An internationally known presenter on topics related to patterns, retrospectives, the change process, and how your brain works, Linda is the author of a number of publications and four books: Design Patterns in Communications; The Pattern Almanac 2000; A Patterns Handbook; and, co-authored with Mary Lynn Manns, Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas. Linda has been an amateur recorder player for more than 50 years. She and her husband, Karl Rehmer, are part of three performing groups. They also enjoy bike riding, even when the hills in Tennessee are pretty steep. They also serve as board members for Habitat for Humanity of Wilson County. Find more information about Linda at lindarising.org.

Imagine That

The ABC News Special titled “Earth 2100,” depicted an imaginary, but possible, scenario. ABC introduced it as follows: “To change the future, first you have to imagine it.”

To kick-start the change initiative, engage others in an exercise to imagine future possibilities.

You are an evangelist or dedicated champion who is talking about a new idea.

It can be difficult for those you are trying to convince to see how a new idea will fit into the work they will be doing.

Most of us find it easier to remember the problems of the past and concentrate on the challenges we face in the present. This can inhibit our ability to understand how a new idea can impact our future. But you want others to believe that a new beginning, a better world, is possible and could be just around the corner. You want them to understand the past, but focus on the future.

You don’t always have the resources to do a trial run and you rarely, if ever, have the ability to perfectly simulate what a new idea will provide. Even so, a visualization, a mental rehearsal, is always possible.

Therefore:

Ask people to imagine a possible outcome with the new idea. Begin with “What if . . . ?”

Encourage them to think out loud and fill their mental imagery with many different kinds of sensory details. How will things look when the new idea is a reality? Which kinds of things will we hear? What will it allow us to do?

Tell the story. You could start by talking about the difficulties in the present (use the Wake-up Call pattern). Help your audience feel the frustration and then imagine how events could unfold by describing potential ways a new idea could address the current problem(s). Keep it simple, avoiding details that are not likely to happen. If there were successful change initiatives in the past that relate to what you are proposing now, include these examples as a reminder that success is possible. Be sure that the story is tailored to what the organization or the individuals can and cannot do.

Move past a logical collection of facts and features toward an emotional connection. Prompt your listeners with “Imagine if we could . . . ” and then ask them to consider how they feel as they think about this scenario becoming a reality. Do they feel relief? Satisfaction? Excitement? Confidence?

Involve the participants in uncovering the possibilities for moving forward. Let their imaginations run wild as they talk about their ideal situations. Once all the ideas have been expressed, help them dial back to realistic options and an outline for a concrete action plan.

You may also want to encourage people to imagine the risks of not addressing the problems in the organization. Include realistic scenarios with possibilities of what could happen if the change does not occur. Encourage them to think about and compare the costs of making a change versus the costs of not making it.

Ask for help if you are not a good storyteller or are not skilled at leading discussions. Also, if you don’t have a connection with the listeners, you could be dismissed as a salesperson. In such a case, look for a bridge builder to help you plan and deliver the sessions.

Keep in mind that this pattern won’t work for everyone, especially those who are not comfortable with visualizing the future in this way. This is only one persuasion strategy that should be combined with concrete data.

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Using the Imagine That pattern enables you to examine how a new idea might work in the future. It prompts listeners to leave behind old ways of thinking and imagine how new possibilities might be relevant to their daily existence. By focusing on the future, individuals may be more motivated to let go of the past.

However, it can be easy to get carried away. Imagining can be fun and, as a result, you may tell a story about an unrealistic future. This will turn off your listeners, rather than intrigue them, and it will create problems for you later if the imagined future does not match the reality. So, in addition to uncovering the positive outcomes of the change initiative, ask your listeners, “What else? Which problems might we face? Which other scenarios could happen?” Don’t dwell on the limitations at this point, but do include a discussion of the side effects that could surface, and think about what everyone might be able to do about them.

To get employees interested in using new project management and social networking software, the CIO’s presentation included a variety of specific scenarios describing when, where, and how this software could be used in existing and future projects. The attendees nodded and responded with potential scenarios of their own: “Oh yes,” they said, “and I can also see how this software can be used here, too.”

A church was facing a new, uncertain future after the unexpected loss of the minister. The deacon held a town hall meeting in which he requested that all attendees choose to participate in one of three groups that represented their personal feelings: anger, confusion, or hope. The “hope” group was asked to spend time imagining a new, better, and exciting future for the church. When this group reported the outcome of their exercise, smiles and nods appeared among the people in the other two groups.

Years ago, when cable TV was soon to become available in the Tempe, Arizona area, one group of prospective customers was presented with the upcoming features while the other group was asked to imagine how the new service would be of value to them. The message for the second group included the word “you” throughout; in addition, rather than talking about abstract benefits, it focused on personal benefits and asked readers to visualize how they would feel about the new service. The result: 10% of those in the first group who received only the informational message subscribed, while 47% of those in the other group who were asked to imagine the possibilities subscribed.

Gary, a personal coach, often does an imagery exercise with his clients who are depressed. He asks the person to close her eyes and describe herself—what color is she wearing, how does her facial expression (e.g., eyes, mouth) look, how does her stature appear, how are her friends reacting to her, what does she do every day, and so on. Then, he asks this person to imagine herself in a year, prompting her with the same questions about facial expression, stature, lifestyle, and so on. Afterward, Gary and his client have a discussion about which of the two images is preferable and how the person can create a concrete action plan to begin moving toward the more desirable image.

Wake-up Call

“Hey, we’ve got a problem here.” The message from the Apollo 13 spacecraft to Houston ground controllers at 10:08 p.m. EDT on April 13, 1970 initiated an investigation to determine the cause of an oxygen tank failure that aborted the Apollo 13 mission.

Alias: “Houston, we have a problem.”

To encourage people to pay attention to your idea, point out the issue that you believe has created a pressing need for change.

You are an evangelist or dedicated champion who has identified a problem and sees a need for change.

People in your organization seem to be comfortable with the status quo. They don’t see the need to change the current state of things.

When you talk about your idea, you are proposing a solution to a problem. But if no one is aware of the difficult situation, it’s likely that your idea will be viewed as merely an interesting possibility rather than something urgent that requires action. As a result, your proposal is met with complacency, pessimism, or defiance, or everyone simply ignores you.

We are creatures of habit. When we are settled into a routine and are satisfied with the way things are, we’re not likely to see an impending threat. You will need to help others understand that the world has changed and that they must change as well. It can be difficult to face this reality. We can feel overwhelmed and hopeless when facing a challenge—yet most of us want to make things right. Therefore, we are more likely to take action if we feel a certain amount of tension brought about by, for example, a need to eliminate a potential risk, a desire for safety and comfort, or a wish to fulfill a goal. If you can create this kind of tension, people are likely to seek a resolution.

An upbeat style of leadership encourages optimism, but when it becomes excessive, it distorts reality. Individuals will believe everything is going well. They will stop asking questions and avoid considering feedback that could lead to improvement. This “excessive optimism” or “irrational exuberance” can leave an organization ill equipped to deal with inevitable setbacks. You need to be courageous enough to bring potential problems to light and encourage periodic critical reflection in areas that are not doing well.

According to John Kotter, the first step in real change is to “get the urgency up.” He explains that showing people a compelling need for change will energize them to make something happen—it will get them “off the couch, out of the bunker, and ready to move.”

In Weird Ideas That Work, author Bob Sutton points to research on social movements, showing that the hallmark of scalable ideas is for leaders to first create “hot” emotions to fire up attention and motivation and then provide “cool” rational solutions for people to implement.

Thomas Friedman, author of The World Is Flat, reminds us: “Where there is a problem, there is an opportunity.” Your idea can be that opportunity.

Therefore:

Create a conscious need for change by calling attention to a problem and its negative consequences in the organization.

Do your homework to understand the “pain points” and their impacts. Prepare concrete information. Double-check your facts. Describe the situation in a compelling and powerful way. Let the numbers talk, but remember to include the human side as well by establishing an emotional connection. Ask for help from those who are also aware of the issue to help you understand how it affects different people in a variety of environments.

Use corridor politics and talk with key individuals. Once you have supporters who agree that the threat is real and needs to be addressed, they can help you in a town hall meeting, where you can spread the information to others in the organization.

Tell your story. Explain how you recognized the issue, but don’t get carried away with details that could keep everyone consumed with the problem. Focus their attention by explaining just enough.

Have a solution that people will care about implementing. Relate it to the goals of the organization (using the Tailor Made pattern). Use the Personal Touch pattern to help individuals answer the question: What’s in it for me?

Point out what could happen if the problem is not solved, perhaps with various scenarios (use the Imagine That pattern). But don’t just tell horror stories: Accentuate the positive. You want to inspire hope to encourage everyone to discuss potential solutions.

Don’t outline a complete strategy for the solution, because then the initiative could become all about you. Even if you think you have a good idea, you will get more buy-in if you present it as a rough proposal and then ask for help in creating a concrete action plan.

Stay in touch. Once you have helped others recognize the issue, don’t allow the urgency of reaching a solution to decline as people get busy with other things.

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Use of the Wake-up Call pattern helps to create awareness of the current reality in the organization and the problem(s) that are responsible for it. Listeners will stop and think, “Wow, I didn’t know that!” You will likely bring to light issues that many didn’t see or may have been denying. You are preparing them to open their minds to new possibilities and recognize the need to take action. This allows you to propose your ideas for change.

However, you are not likely to get everyone to care about the problems you raise. You should be careful about dwelling on existing predicaments—there can be serious political ramifications from such an emphasis. You can come across as a troublemaker, especially if the old way is owned by those with influence. If too many people are not responding to your wake-up call, you may have to pick your battles and move on.

Max became the manager of the customer services team in a large manufacturing company. Even though the team was considered to be the “premiere” leader in the sales division, Max noticed gaps. Rather than approaching the team with “This is what I see,” he tried to help team members reach their own conclusions. He called a meeting and began by asking them to rate their customer support as good, very good, or great. The group declared they were “great” and listed all the wonderful things they were doing. Max encouraged them to dig deeper with a follow-up question: “What makes a customer support team great?” As they discussed the question, Max prompted the team members to think about their personal interactions with customers and benchmark them against other companies that have great customer service. This allowed the team to identify important qualities in customer support, including empathy, sound professionalism, and the willingness to take responsibility to meet expectations. Max sounded a wake-up call by asking if there were any gaps in these qualities. The team decided that while a “very good” customer service team has empathy and seeks a complete answer by taking ownership of each problem, a “great” one builds relationships to create trust with their customers. Their concrete action plan pinpointed the notion that customer service representatives should be, among other things, more proactive by reaching out to customers they had not heard from in a while to inquire if there was anything they can do for them. The exercise allowed everyone to “wake up” and acknowledge that they weren’t working at their highest possible level and to identify opportunities for improvement. The team was able to recognize when they were simply meeting or truly exceeding their customers’ expectations.

The system for assigning faculty to committees at one university was tedious and outdated. Ellen drafted a new system that needed to go to the Faculty Senate for approval. Unfortunately, she didn’t use the Corridor Politics pattern, so Senate members raised many questions and concerns following her presentation. When Ellen realized that her proposal was not likely to pass, she politely stopped the discussion and back-peddled with a detailed explanation of the problems in the present system. Senate members reacted with surprise. They had not been aware of the difficulties and were immediately more willing to support her. Ellen then suggested a trial run of her new system, and the motion passed in her favor.

Paul Levy was appointed to head the BIDMC hospital system, the product of a difficult merger between two hospitals. To signal the need for a new order, Levy developed a bold message explaining that this was BIDMC’s last chance to make improvements. Pointing to his private discussions with the state attorney general, he publicized the real possibility that the hospital would be sold. He knew this bad news might frighten staff and patients, but he believed a strong wake-up call was necessary to get employees to face the need for change.

Josie King’s senseless death started with a hot bath. The one-and-a-half-year-old girl climbed into a tub and burned herself in January 2001. Her initial recovery, at a large hospital, seemed promising, but then the toddler began experiencing insatiable thirst. Nurses told her mother not to let her drink and said her vital signs were normal, even as she sucked washcloths to quench her thirst. Then, despite a no-narcotics order, a nurse gave Josie methadone, which led to cardiac arrest. Two days later, she died in the intensive care unit. Josie’s mother, Sorrel, gave this heartbreaking wake-up call in December 2004 at an event kicking off a campaign to reduce by 100,000 the number of patients who die each year in US hospitals because of preventable errors. A small nonprofit called the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) was behind the 100,000 Lives campaign. By June 2006, the hospitals enrolled in it had accomplished this goal. Although the organization lacked formal authority over the hospitals and operated with a tiny staff and modest resources, it helped save 100,000 lives by inspiring and guiding executives, physicians, nurses, and a host of other staff members in the 3000 hospitals (representing more than 75% of U.S. hospital beds) that joined the campaign.

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