In this chapter, I am combining It and We.
In personal change, our relationships are defined by how we are relating to others. That relationship – between you and the other person - is the only thing we can truly influence. What others do or think when you are not around is not under your control and you can’t do much about it when they aren’t with you.
In this chapter, we are going to work with the following 3 laws:
We cannot control others.
We can only influence others through our interactions with them.
The result of our attempts at influence is not under our control.
This section will provide us with a clearer understanding of the human environment we find ourselves in as we attempt to execute our change.
Sometimes, the people around us will cheer us on and support us.
Sometimes, they will work against us or, at best, not care.
Our task is to figure out where our supporters are and who we need to move carefully around – or get out of our lives altogether.
You deserve to be surrounded by people who care for you and love you for you – in ALL environments.
Current statistics on organizational change success – 70 percent or more of change initiatives fail and those numbers are apparently increasing. And yet, there’s a greater demand for change and needing to be agile in the face of a very uncertain environment and we’re becoming worse at it.
I suspect, that your experience in that space is very similar to mine where there’s all these change initiatives, for a brief time, there might be a little bit of focus. As soon as we’ve done the ceremony, had the training, and turned it on, we’re on to the next change.
The result is exhaustion.
I have particularly noticed this pattern in the last five years working in organizations where it’s one thing after another, after another and people are just tired. This impacts the rest of our lives, nevermind our ability to adjust to change in the workplace.
Even when you’re looking at personal change or habit change, the failure rate is 80 to 90 percent. Much of the research is focused on: maybe you didn’t chunk it small enough, you didn’t do anything with your environment … throw away the cookies.
But I think there’s something that has been missed in some of this conversation. The reason that I’ve seen that change fails both in organizations and in just the personal changes we’re trying to make:
We have not considered the impact on other people and we have not considered how we need to interact with other people to make that change successful.
Here’s what I mean when I talk about how we haven’t considered the impact on other people…
In an organizational context, it looks like, “Okay, well we’re going to do the stakeholder matrix and we’re going to know them as a trainer.” You’re looking at it in terms of: “Who are my audiences? What’s the change that can happen now?”
It’s very surface level, but we haven’t considered both the short-term impact, because any change is going to slow people down as they learn new processes. They learn new tools, they need to integrate and they need to learn how their interactions with others change. That’s a layer that we don’t normally get into when it comes to organizational change.
On the personal level, when many of us approach change for ourselves, like the new year’s resolution, we’re thinking about the behaviors and the changes we need to make personally without considering how this impacts others.
For instance, I’m thinking about changing up some of the things that my partner and I eat. We’ve gotten a little sloppy with our diet and, if I was going the way we have typically tackled our dietary habits and we decided to change our diet and start eating vegetables, there’s a possibility that our intentions could get derailed pretty quickly. Maybe one day I want a salad, he wants pizza. I like pizza. How easy is it going to be for him to derail me from the salad to go eat pizza?
The changes that we make for ourselves tend to have a greater impact on others. It’s the same thing when you’re looking at family and friends, or people outside. Again, I’m going to use food as an example. There’s a social component around food and going into food situations where, “No, I can’t eat this, I can’t eat this, I can eat this” makes it incredibly difficult to enjoy time with friends and enjoy the meal.
It’s good to set boundaries, but boundaries have a social impact. That’s something that often we don’t consider. I know for myself, whenever I’ve made changes and those changes happen to stick, part of it is me, but some of it is also how I’m interacting with the people in my environment now. Like a lot of humans, I want to belong.
Whenever I personally tackle my dietary habits, I’m doing it more to make myself a little healthier. I don’t have medical issues, I’m not trying to lose a ton of weight. And I’m fortunate enough to not have food addictions, or that sort of thing. It is still worth considering how your personal changes are going to impact others.
The other thing that often gets lost in the change discussion is that how we interact with people needs to change as we make change.
In an organizational context, most often change comes down from on high and is inflicted on others. The people who are leading that change are treating it as “It’s a change you need to make. I don’t really need to do anything.” They may not mean to send that message, but that’s often the message they send – “I’m separate and apart from this change. Even though you have to make the change, it doesn’t apply to me.”
There’s modeling that needs to be considered. There’s How does this change what I’m rewarding? How does this change how I interact with people? Do I need to treat people differently?
One of the best examples of this can be seen in Agile project management implementations. A shift to Agile requires an major changes in relationships between people. I believe this shift is underplayed when organizations “go Agile” and that’s one of the reasons why a number of Agile implementations go sideways.
On a personal level, we also experience interaction changes. I’m not only modeling behavior, but I’m also setting and maintaining boundaries. Furthermore, I’m often asking for help – which is difficult for a lot of us.
I know I am super guilty of this and I am working on this constantly. Asking for help is really, really hard. If you’re not someone who has typically asked for help, getting the courage to ask, then learning how to ask for help in a positive way is a major change in the way you interact with people.
One of the ways we can really help our cause and make new habits stick is to deeply consider the impact on others and how we need to change how we interact with others.
In this chapter, we are going to look at how our change effort impacts others and how we are going to:
Reward and reinforce behavior
Surface risks and assumptions
We’re also going to talk about planning for stealth. Certain changes, either because of the situation (leaving an unsupportive environment – especially if your safety is threatened), or the risk (changing jobs, new creative projects), or the lack of safe spaces (getting sober, dieting) may require us to make the changes we need to make in hostile environments.
Although much of what I have talked about in this book is about finding support, sometimes that support is not readily available. It’s a reality that few self-improvement books address. Let’s begin the conversation here.
To start, let’s talk about the reality of “others.”
I have found that most change derails when we encounter others.
You are trying to fit in and your change challenges our ability to do that.
Or someone you respect (or has control over how you make a living) challenges your decision to change.
Or the messages you receive in your environment contradict what you are trying to do.
The reactions and actions of others, and how you respond, can be the greatest risk to successful change.
Let’s work together to see what we can do to mitigate that risk.
Engaging with the Outside World
Anything we do, any change we make, is done within an environment that contains other people.
Even those of us who have a hermitage lifestyle will still engage with the rest of humanity both directly when we run errands and indirectly through media, social media, and books.
Any help and support we require as we go through this change will be through other people.
Don Beck, in his work with Third World countries, noted that his team was best able to guide the design, development, and implementation of solutions if they remembered the following rules:
You are working at one level. This provides a perspective that influences how you see the world, what you identify as problems, and how you solve them.
The other is likely working at another level, either higher or lower than you. Their perspective on the world, what THEY see as problems, and how they would solve them (if they saw it as a problem) is likely wildly different from yours.
To get agreement on whether there is a problem, and to develop the best solution, you need to engage with the other ON THE OTHER’S LEVEL. Walk in the other person’s shoes. Try to see the world the way they see it. Meet them where they are at.
If you are trying to encourage someone to grow, remember that levels cannot be skipped. This means you can’t just yell at people to change or “be the change” or be different from who they are right now.1Don Beck, Spiral Dynamics, read the chapter on Spiral Dynamics Wizardry. Much of this work stems from the Developmental Psychologists. The Spiral (Don Beck) and Integral (Ken Wilber) schools lean on Robert Kegan’s work to guide them in this area.
For personal change, the person you MOST need to worry about is YOU.
Remember: you cannot control what another person says, does, or believes.
You may be able to influence them with consistent behavior and a demonstration of positive results.
Ideally, you are surrounded by people who support you, encourage your change, and help you grow.
Chances are, you are surrounded by people who are, at best, at the same level you operate at; or, at worst, are dragging you down.
It is not your job to change them.
Your change is for YOU.
The people who surround you will change naturally as a result of that change. Some people will move closer, some new people will appear, some friends will grow with you, some friends will disappear.
It’s all part of the process.
In my experience, it is also the least predictable part of the process.
“There is a story that has been going around about a physicist, a chemist, and an economist who were stranded on a desert island with no implements and a can of food. The physicist and the chemist each devised an ingenious mechanism for getting the can open; the economist merely said, "Assume we have a can opener"!” - Kenneth E. Boulding: Economics as a Science. McGraw-Hill, 1970, p. 101
In this section, we are going to check to see whether our predictions and assumptions are accurate and true.
Especially our assumptions around how others are viewing our change attempt.
Hopefully, you find that you have not given your friends, family, co-workers, and others in your immediate environment enough credit and that they prove to be significantly more supportive than you thought they would be. In my life, I have found that to be true more often than not.
When there has been conflict and lack of support around a change I wish to make, it is often because I am inadvertently threatening the way they want to see me, forcing them to look at THEIR lifestyle choices, or threatening how they see our relationship. I saw this dynamic most dramatically when I got sober. Sadly, you may need to make some uncomfortable decisions regarding who you are spending your time with if the conflict is dramatic enough.
A second source of conflict I have experienced is a result of a lack of experience or understanding around the change I wish to make and/or why I wish to make it. In that case, I lean on friends and mentors who have been where I wish to go.
It’s not my job to explain why or change minds. It’s my job to execute on my plan. I can’t control what others’ think about what I’m doing.
Remember: the only quadrant we can control is I.
We want to surface the truth around our environment. We want to see who will support us and who won’t. As we surface this, we want to make sure our plans include spending more time with supporters and reducing time with the haters.
People gaps – Where is Your Support?
By now, you probably have a decent idea of where your support lies and how challenging some of the conversations you need to have might be. Some of these conversations may have occurred unbidden.
Let’s work towards getting a more accurate heatmap of where we can find support, accountability, and mentorship.
Leveraging Your Stakeholder Matrix to Create a Support Heatmap
We are going to go back to our Stakeholder Matrix and update it with what we have learned about the people around us – through either direct asking or observation.
Remember: You want to keep the Stakeholder Matrix private, save for anyone who is helping you execute this change – especially professionals.
Exercise – Figure out the actual support
Return to the Stakeholder Matrix you started in Chapter 5.
Fill out the Actual column, Update approach, Add comments based on what you have learned
Have the tough conversation. Update your approach and your comments.
I did this Stakeholder Matrix in Excel. You can also use pen/paper.
Excel allows you to filter based on rows or columns.
Highlight those who provide Actual positive support. Consider how (or if) you wish to recruit them to help you wish this change.
Your actual supporters can help you create the Safe Space (Prong 4) you need for this change.
Exercise: SWOT Analysis – We
At this point, we should have a more realistic idea of who supports us, how our supporters can help, and who we need to be more careful around.
When performing this SWOT Analysis, I invite you to write down the assumptions you are making as you engage with this analysis. Leverage the information you gathered during Pass 3 (What I have) and Pass 4 (What I need) along with what you learned as you filled out your Stakeholder Matrix.
What strengths do you have that will help with this change? Who can you work with? How can they help you be successful?
Where are you weak or still missing information, resources, skills? What can you do to mitigate these weaknesses?
What opportunities might surface as we execute on this change – especially regarding potential groups and individuals? Is there anything on the horizon that could help us with this change? Think both short-term and long-term.
What threats might we encounter that could derail us? Again, think both short-term and long-term. We will look at the significance of these threats later in this chapter.
I am going to continue filling out the SWOT analysis using the book project as the example. Be as specific as is helpful for you.
Rewards and Reinforcement
It’s in our best interest to help people help us.
One way to encourage others is to be clear on how we want others to engage with us.
To do that, we want to reward and reinforce positive behavior.
Catch People Doing Something Right
My partner and I unconsciously stumbled on this practice during our relationship.
We regularly thank each other for seemingly innocuous actions:
Doing the dishes
Taking out the trash
Cutting the bushes
Separating and folding the laundry
I find that both of us feel more appreciated for the little things we do for each other if these little things are acknowledged. The practice also reinforces and rewards positive action. Each of us is more likely to do the things the other is going to reward us for vs. fearing being nagged at.
This does not mean that we don’t have our disagreements or difficult conversations. Just our focus is on the things the other does right. When we need to have a challenging conversation, we have a baseline of known positive intent to work with.
I also find myself in a much better mood when I am playing the game of “catching people doing something right.” It beats yelling at other drivers or grumbling about co-workers.
Admittedly, some days it is easier to play the “catch people doing something right” game than others. Remember, our brains are wired to look for the shocking and the negative.
Rewarding and Reinforcing Positive Behavior in Adults
We are just starting to see research on how best to reward adults. Not surprisingly, it’s not all that different from how we reward children and pets.
B.F. Skinner identified four methods of conditioning behavior:
Positive reinforcement: a desirable stimulus is introduced to encourage the behavior.
Example: Thanking my partner when he does the dishes.
Positive punishment: an undesirable stimulus is introduced to discourage the behavior.
Example: Adding a chore when your teenager breaks curfew.
Negative reinforcement: an undesirable stimulus is removed to encourage the behavior.
Example: Removing a check-in requirement when your teenager proves to be trustworthy.2https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/positive-reinforcement-psychology/ In Skinner’s definition: “Positive” = introduction; “Negative” = removal. “Reinforcement” = encouraging behavior; “Punishment” – discouraging behavior
Negative punishment (also called extinction): a desirable stimulus is removed to discourage the behavior.
Example: An employee misses an important deadline and is removed from an important project.
Which method of reinforcement or punishment you choose depends upon the individual you are working with. For our purposes, we are going to focus on Positive Reinforcement where we are providing a desirable stimulus to encourage a behavior. I have found that most people (and pets) respond better through positive reinforcement (rewarding behavior) and negative reinforcement (removing stimuli that discourages the behavior).
Rewards and Positive Reinforcement
There are 4 types of reinforcers that we can work with:
Natural reinforcers: reinforcers that occur directly as a result of the behavior (e.g., a certification student studies hard for the test and does well – earning the certification).
Token reinforcers: those that are awarded for performing certain behaviors and can be exchanged for something of value (e.g., a gym that awards stars for performing certain activities, participants receive prizes as they gain star levels).
Social reinforcers: those that involve others expressing their approval of a behavior (e.g., an employer saying, “Good job!” or “Excellent work!” or “Thank you so much for…”).
Tangible reinforcers: reinforcers that are actual physical or tangible rewards (e.g., receiving cash for work done in the desired way).
The effectiveness of a reinforcer depends on the context. Natural reinforcers are often the most effective. In our context, we may have trouble developing natural reinforcers for someone else. The change is ours alone.
Social reinforcers, however, are extremely powerful. Most of us don’t give or receive “thank you” enough.
In our context, we can take advantage of Social reinforcers to encourage the desired behavior.
If it is appropriate, we can also leverage other types of reinforcement.
A simple “Thank you” may prove to be enough to encourage desired behavior.
Exercise: Determine Your Rewards and Recognition
1) What behaviors do you want to encourage in others as you make this change?
You want to be as specific as possible. The clearer you are about the behaviors and actions that will support you and your change, the easier it will be for you to recognize and reward those behaviors.
Do you need them to keep an eye on you as you make this change? Do you need encouragement? Do you need them to remind you of your progress?
Write each behavior down.
2) With each behavior, how will you recognize that behavior?
What are the cues and prompts you will observe…
In the other person?
What words will you hear?
What will you observe in their body language?
What is your history with this other person?
How does your body feel when the other performs this behavior?
What thoughts appear in response?
If your natural inclination is to feel threatened by compliments and positive interactions – ask yourself if you are sensing things accurately?5Byron Katie has a nice way of asking whether you are looking at the reality of a situation – “Is it true?” I find this question particularly helpful when my body gives me a threat response when I am not in any practical danger and I have long, positive experience with the people I am with at the time. https://thework.com/
Your body provides clues (whether you like it or not) as to whether you are interpreting the other person’s behavior accurately. Do you feel relaxed? Do you feel on-guard?
You will have certain thoughts that will appear. Observe those. What comes up?
If you have a history of negative self-talk, negative feedback, and emotional abuse or neglect, there are a couple of layers to unpack.
For example: My knee-jerk reaction to compliments has typically been “Are you sure about that?” My body gets guarded. But, if the person complimenting me is either a stranger or someone I have a history of positive interactions with, I can assume positive intent and see that compliment for what it is.
You have a sense of who you can trust and who you can’t.
Even with those you can’t trust, recognize and reward the positive behavior – but be discerning about their motives and what you agree to later.
Allow yourself the pause to consider what is truly happening – especially when someone is demonstrating a positive, supportive behavior that you have defined and your body and thoughts are giving you danger signals.
3) For each behavior, how will you reward that behavior?
Rewards can be as simple as a thank-you or a positive acknowledgement.
For those who may be trying to manipulate you (sadly, these people exist), you will want to keep it that simple, then disengage.
If something more involved is appropriate, define what that will be.
Public recognition to a respected group?
The appropriate reward depends upon context – both the environmental context and the individual’s preferences.
Start with a simple thank-you.
If you need (or want) to do something more involved, define it carefully and consider the time, energy, and resource requirements for executing that reward.
Exercise: Stakeholder Matrix – Rewards and Recognition
The next step is to map the desired behaviors to the individuals.
Add 2 columns to your stakeholder matrix. Behaviors and Reinforcement.
For each stakeholder
In the Behavior column:
What behaviors do you need that stakeholder to demonstrate?
How will you recognize that behavior when it occurs? What are the cues the other person will provide?
In the Reinforcement column:
How will you reinforce that behavior? Ideally, the reward or reinforcement will occur immediately after the demonstration of the behavior.
Leverage what you know about the person. How do they typically behave? How different is the behavior you are asking them to perform? Are you asking to do something natural to them?
Though the example spreadsheet only shows one behavior per person (example) – you may be watching for multiple behaviors. I recommend focusing on ONE behavior that would be most impactful for your change initiative.
Appreciate anything else that appears that also demonstrates support as you find it – but focus on identifying and reinforcing that one behavior. As with goals, focusing on all the things is an exercise in futility.
Agreements and Boundaries
With the people who don’t support us, we need to consider what agreements and boundaries we need to set.
I find that agreements and boundaries are the most challenging part of successful change – especially when working within established relationships.
Some therapists argue that all of us are in co-dependent relationships somewhere in our lives.
“A common denominator seem to be the unwritten, silent rules that usually develop…and set the pace for relationships. These rules prohibit discussion about problems; open expression of feelings; direct, honest communication; realistic expectations, such as being human, vulnerable, or imperfect; selfishness; trust in other people and one’s self; playing and having fun; and rocking the delicately balanced…canoe through growth or change – however healthy and beneficial that movement might be.”
- Melody Beatty, Codependent No More
Beatty talked about these characteristics in terms of family and personal life, but I have observed this dynamic in most workplaces and organizations.
Your relationships, and the rules that both of you set for each relationship, are often unconsciously set in the beginning. Especially if it is a relationship that you feel is (or could be) important.
New lovers, new bosses, new co-workers, individuals within new groups; the way you respond to the other as we establish the relationship sets the tone.
If you have not consciously set our own boundaries as to what you will and won’t do as you enter the relationship, we can easily fall into codependent patterns. Especially when you inadvertently attract dysfunctional individuals. Most especially when you inadvertently attract dysfunctional individuals into important roles – such as boss or life partner.
We are going to use Beatty’s definition of codependent for our purposes:
“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.”
Developing agreements and setting (and maintaining) boundaries frees us from that cycle.
At the beginning of a corporate engagement, a consultant will put together a document called a “Statement of Work.”
The Statement of Work performs the following functions:
Defines the expected outcome and success criteria of the engagement
Outlines the agreed-to work the consultant will perform – including any deliverables and roles, as well as provide an estimate of how long the work will take.
Outlines the roles and responsibilities the business will be responsible for filling.
Ensures that both the business and the consultant are clear on the rules of the relationship.
When the inevitable conflicts occur during a project, both parties can pull out the statement of work. If it appears there is a gap, the consultant and the business can then re-negotiate. There is a baseline for both parties to do so.
I made a mistake during my first big project. I outlined a statement of work and provided an estimate of hours. I provided what I would do for the cost. What I did NOT do was define what I wouldn’t do and what the business should be responsible for.
This rapidly became a problem as the project lead began to expect me to perform multiple roles outside of what was contracted. By itself, this would not have been a problem. However, the long-term success of the project was dependent upon the business supplying a resource for a certain role that was going to provide long-term expertise in the tools and systems impacted by this project.
One of the reasons why they engaged this project in the first place was because they only had one person with real internal expertise in the tool. The business had a long history of outsourcing their expertise. Unfortunately, they found that they had outsourced too much of their core administration and had put themselves in a situation where if one key person quit – the whole business was going to grind to a halt for months, possibly years. A key success criteria for this project was to reduce this risk.
Me filling the role was not going to reduce the risk or map to their key success criteria. The reason for the ask was because the project lead was struggling with obtaining resources internally. Interestingly, the resource in question kept asking me why she wasn’t on the project. If I had better defined what the business would be responsible for and had better defined MY boundaries around what I would or wouldn’t do – we may not have had this series of uncomfortable and stressful discussions.
Thankfully, everything worked out. The correct resources were eventually put on the project, the project came in on-time and under-budget, and the business managed to multiply their expertise in their core administrative tool – allowing the one person who was the expert to move on to a more strategic position.
This whole incident taught me that I need to better define my boundaries going into a relationship.
In this example, it was a business relationship. I have started applying this same concept to personal relationships.
I have learned that once the rules of the relationship are set, they are incredibly difficult, and energy-intensive, to change.
I’m going to define Agreements and Boundaries separately.
Agreements – What I WILL do for you. These are the rules I will follow. This is how we will work together to get both of our needs met.
Boundaries – What I WON’T do for you. These are my limits. This is what I will not tolerate from you.
We want to define BOTH.
There will be behaviors we discover as we move through this change that fall into a grey area. As you encounter them, you need to decide whether it falls under something you will agree to or something you will not tolerate.
I have found over the years that the clearer our boundaries are to ourselves, the less likely we are to nudge those boundaries. Certain individuals excel at escalating our response to the point where we find ourselves doing things we said we would never do. Some are so good at it that we don’t realize what is happening until it is too late.
Exercise: Define Your Boundaries – All relationships
We’re going to define our agreements and boundaries for ALL relationships first. These boundaries cross all change efforts. Defining these boundaries will help us to discern who we want to surround ourselves with and identify when those boundaries are being crossed.
I am starting with the negative because it’s important to be VERY clear on what you will not tolerate and what you will do if someone crosses that line.
No one deserves physical, mental, or emotional abuse. If you find yourself in an abusive situation, either at home or at the workplace, get professional help and work with them to escape the situation.
For ALL people you choose to engage with:
What will you NOT tolerate from another person?
Examples: Physical violence, threats of physical violence, yelling, etc.
What will you do if the other person engages in that behavior? Define for each behavior.
Example: If someone starts yelling at me, I will inform them that now does not seem to be the time to talk and walk away. If someone starts yelling at me on the phone, I will inform them that I cannot understand them if they talk to me in that manner and to call back another time and hang up.
How this looks in practice: I’ve had people yell at me for various reasons – often because I have served as the “inflictor of change” and a convenient scapegoat for their frustration. In the workplace, my next step is to document and call in reinforcements (usually management). The one time it was an executive in my management chain, I documented the engagement, found an individual to talk to so I could process what happened and my role in it, and started job hunting. I personally do not tolerate yellers – personally or professionally – and will not hang around people or organizations that tolerate that behavior, particularly among their “leadership.” My life is too short for that.
What will you NOT do for another person?
Example: I won’t play “third-party” or “peacemaker.”
How this looks in practice: “It sounds like the two of you need to have a direct conversation. You don’t need me to play translator.”
We are going to define the change-effort specific agreements and boundaries within our stakeholder matrix.
Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement
William Ury, in his book Getting to Yes with Yourself, encourages us to consider our Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) BEFORE we go into any negotiation.
This way, you are not entirely reliant on specific others to get your needs met.
Ury realizes that negotiation, fundamentally, is about respect and relationship.
He realizes that the world will be better if we treated each other with respect and worked hard to establish strong, healthy, positive relationships with each other.
To do this, Ury recognizes, requires that we go into each of these negotiations ensuring we know what we deeply need, making it a point to learn what the other party deeply needs, and determining what it takes to meet those needs in a way that is beneficial to all involved as best as possible.
Sometimes, that most beneficial way is to be ready to fall back on your “BATNA.”
Fundamentally, the only person we can really control is ourselves. Attempts to control or “motivate” others do more to damage relationships than give you a “win.”
I try to go into any interaction where I need to ask someone else for something (either a resource or help) with a best alternative to negotiated agreement – or a plan if the person says “No.”
If I can enter a discussion knowing I have other options, it makes the whole encounter less stressful. I have an easier time listening to the other party. I am more confident when discussing mutually beneficial options. It is easier, if the person is not able (or willing) to help me, to resolve the conversation with both of us feeling OK about how the conversation went.
There is an “energetic” advantage to knowing what your alternatives are as well. People can smell desperation. If you are desperate for a particular outcome from a particular person, the other party may make obtaining that outcome more costly for you.
If we are desperate for a certain person to serve our needs, we are disempowering ourselves.
“Your inner BATNA is your commitment to stop blaming yourself, others, and life itself for your dissatisfactions no matter what. It is your commitment to remove the responsibility for meeting your true needs from another person’s shoulders – and to assume it for yourself no matter what.”
We need to look at what we are expecting from others and what our best alternatives to ensure that we can meet our needs.
Exercise: Stakeholder Matrix – Agreements, Boundaries and BATNA
In this exercise, we are going to look specifically at what we need from others during this change effort.
We are going to re-evaluate our agreements, set some boundaries, and determine our best alternative to negotiated agreement (ie – they say “no” or decline to support us).
It is assumed that the boundaries you have set for yourself for ALL people and ALL circumstances apply to this specific effort.
I also recommend writing down all agreements and boundaries that apply to this change effort.
We are focusing on reinforcing one behavior.
We are making clear ALL of our agreements and boundaries.
For each person:
In the Agreements column (answer 1 or more questions as appropriate)
What agreements do you need to set?
What will you do for the person during this change effort?
When will you renegotiate?
In the Boundaries column (answer 1 or more questions as appropriate)
What boundaries will you need to set?
What will you stop doing?
When will you renegotiate?
Risk management and risk registers
I’m putting our discussion of risk management under It and We because people are most frequent reason risks surface.
When we hear the term “risk” – most of us think of all the bad things that can happen.
My long-time co-workers and friends will tell you the following about me:
She’s usually prepared for most contingencies. “Worst case scenario? She’s likely considered it.”
She hates surprises.
The idea of Risk Registers? Trying to prepare for everything?
Being more optimistic sorts, the Project Management Body of Knowledge defines risk as
“An uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more project objectives.”
Risk Registers help you identify and plan responses for known risks.
Because…um…you can’t plan for what you don’t know.
I invite you to use this tool as you see fit. Some of us are more inclined to worry than others.
For myself, I find risk management serve 2 purposes:
1) It allows me to see the things I am worrying about. 9/10 times, they aren’t as bad on paper as they are in my head.
2) If I have a plan B (or C, or D) when something happens, I feel more confident and it’s easier for me to get myself (and my project) back on track.
Other people find that the opposite happens. They put all the things that “could go wrong” on paper and it makes things worse.
I offer this discussion as a potential tool. Use as you see fit.
Step 1 – Collect Information
You can find good risk management templates through any search engine. Just type “risk template” in the search.13University of California Enterprise Risk Management Tools a good starting point for larger efforts. Multiple documents for analysis; Other templates – for smaller scale organizations and projects (Google Search)
If you go to “Images,” in your search, you will find great layouts. Use the one that works best for you. In this section, I will provide my favorite formats.
If you have projects similar to the one you are pursuing, look at the records from previous projects.
If you are a compulsive documenter or daily journal writer, take advantage of any lessons learned in the journal. Did anything happen that they didn’t anticipate?
Look at your stakeholder matrix.
What is their risk tolerance?
What is the impact if one of the stakeholders changes? In a personal change project, this most often looks like someone being impacted by your change that you did not initially consider during the planning process.
Talk to people
What sort of surprises do they encounter as they work?
What is going on in the environment that might impact your project?
Step 2 – Organize Your Information
Thankfully, we have been performing this process throughout this book.
The risk categories we will be working with:
I - Impact on me (we talked about this in Chapter 6)
Time available for this effort
Experience and Skills
Its – Impact on the environment (we talked about this in Chapter 7)
Materials – both digital and analog.
We/It – Impact on others
Support and Interactions – as in, do they support me, how positive is the interaction.
Behavior and Reinforcement
Agreements and Boundaries
Availability for help and reliability the individual to deliver
Resource control – as in, the person controls the resource I need (whether it is a skill, knowledge, money, or physical item)
Project managers will often code these risk types using outline numbering. I find the technique helps me stay organized. I have also used outlining and bullet points for practically my entire life, so my organizational brain naturally maps this way.
If you decide to use outline numbering to keep track, it will look like this:
1 I - Impact on me
1.1 Time available for this effort
1.2 Energy levels
1.3 Experience and Skills
2 Its – Impact on the environment
3 We/It – Impact on others
3.1 Support and Interactions
3.2 Behavior and Reinforcement
3.3 Agreements and Boundaries
3.4 Availability and Reliability
3.5 Resource control
The individual risks are then numbered underneath. An example looks something like this:
1 I - Impact on me
1.1 Time available for this effort
1.1.1 Work time – I need to spend more time at work, or I find time because I have finished a task
1.1.2 Church group – I take on another project, or I reduce participation
1.1.3 Kids Sports – The soccer team makes the playoffs and reduces time available
The outline approach I use works best for spreadsheets and communicating to linear thinkers.
Many others use mind mapping techniques to organize themselves. This is great for those of you who love drawing and hate being limited to linear bullet points (which, I suspect, is most people).
I did this mind map in PowerPoint. PowerPoint is a lousy tool for mind-mapping. You are best served using pen and paper or an online mind-mapping tool if you need to share this mindmap with others.
I would recommend grabbing a good book on mind mapping or visual note-taking if you are unfamiliar with this technique.
The advantages to mind mapping include increased flexibility and being able to use your creative juices.
I personally recommend using pen/paper for the mind mapping approach – at least the first pass.
Exercise: Identify Your Risks
Choose one technique. You don’t need to do both an outline/spreadsheet AND a mind map. Unless you want to.
As with the other exercises – spend as much time as you feel is appropriate for the importance and scope of your change effort.
You are also invited to use this exercise to put all your worries and anxieties on paper and out of your head.
For both techniques, use the following questions to guide you:
I – Risks
What risks exist to the time you need to execute this change?
What risks exist to the energy/focus you need to execute this change?
What risks exist to your ability to display the behaviors that will help this change be successful?
What risks exist to your motivation?
What risks exist to your ability to leverage or gain skills?
Its – Risks
What risks exist to the financial resources you need to execute this change? Is there any possibility that I will not be able to get the money I need?
What risks exist to the material resources you need to execute this change? Is there any possibility that I will not be able to get the tools and materials I need?
What risks exist to your processes? Is there a process that, if it changes, impacts something important?
What other risks might appear in your environment that would impact your ability to execute this change?
We/It – Risks
What risks exist regarding my support and interactions with people? Are there certain people I need support from that I may not get it from?
What risks exist regarding other people’s behavior and how I will reinforce that behavior?
What risks exist regarding my ability to maintain agreements with others and enforce my boundaries?
What risks exist regarding another’s availability to help me (if I need it) and whether that person can delivery if they agree to help.
Which resources are controlled by another person? What are the risks around being able to obtain and/or use that resource?
If any other questions appear as you go through this exercise, place that question in the appropriate quadrant (I (me), Its (stuff), We/It (others))
Exercise: Outline/Spreadsheet technique
Set up a spreadsheet or your favorite project management or database tool.
Below is an example of a typical numbering system. Use whatever works best for you.
1 I - Impact on me
1.1 Time available for this effort
1.1.1 Risk 1
1.1.2 Risk 2 (etc)
1.2 Energy levels
1.2.1 Risk 1
1.2.2 Risk 2 (etc)
1.3 Experience and Skills
2 Its – Impact on the environment
3 We/It – Impact on others
3.1 Support and Interactions
3.2 Behavior and Reinforcement
3.3 Agreements and Boundaries
3.4 Availability and Reliability
3.5 Resource control
As you define a risk, each risk gets its own row and number.
An example spreadsheet is below.
Exercise: Develop your risk register – Mindmap technique
You can do this using either pen and paper or a mindmapping tool. In this picture, I am using Mindmeister.
Set up your mindmap with your change effort and why in the middle.
From here, identify the risks that might appear in each category.
You don’t necessarily need to fill out all of the categories and you don’t need to do this all in one sitting.
I have left an example for you in the picture below. We will talk about how to code the mindmap in the next few exercises. For now, just write down the risks you surface as you ask each question and place them in the appropriate area.
Step 3 – What is the probability that risk is going to happen?
For each risk that you have identified, you want to analyze the likelihood that risk is going to happen (probability) and what the impact would be if it did (impact).
Project managers do this analysis in a Probability and Impact Matrix.
We don’t need to go this far.
This is a good time to pull out the post-its, markers, whiteboards etc and brainstorm with friends.
They may find more risks.
You may learn that some things are more important / likely than others.
For each risk you have identified:
What is the probability that this risk will happen? High/Medium/Low
What is the impact to your change effort if this risk occurs? High/Medium/Low
Is this risk something you need to worry about? – Yes/No
Each person’s level of “worry” is different.
Spreadsheet approach – Under the columns: Probability and Impact add your probability that the risk will happen, then add the impact of this risk to the appropriate line. Add any comments.
Mindmap approach – On or near the risk, add a code for the probability and another code for the impact. You may wish to start a legend to remind you what each code means.
I have left an example for you below.
In the above example, I am using 1,2,3 for probability with 1 being the highest likelihood and 3 being the lowest likelihood of the risk occurring.
For the impact, I am using flags. Purple flag is “major impact on my change.” Red flag is high impact, Yellow flag is medium impact, green flag is low impact.
Step 4 – Are there any opportunities that could surface?
Don’t forget to look at all the good things that could happen!
Let’s focus on the positive!
Spreadsheet approach – Add a new row for the opportunity. Under the columns: Probability and Impact add your probability that the opportunity will happen, then add the impact of this opportunity to the appropriate line. If you want to get really fancy – color-code the opportunity in such a way that you see it easily. Add any comments.
Mindmap approach – Add the opportunity to the appropriate section. On or near the opportunity, add a code for the probability and another code for the impact. I chose a smiley face. Add any codes you choose to your legend.
Step 5 – Do I really need to worry about this risk?
You probably don’t need to develop mitigation and contingency plans for all the risks you identify.
One issue with risk registers is that I disasterize all the things.
Risk management is where I often get bogged down in planning. It’s one of my favorite forms of procrastination.
My hard-earned advice – focus your attention on:
1) The high probability and high impact risks. These are the areas where you are most likely and most dramatically going to be derailed.
2) The opportunities that could surface.
Even with those warnings, it is best to have SOMETHING to help guide your decisions as you encounter opportunities and challenges in your projects. It beats panicking.
We are going to work through Risk Mitigation later in this chapter.
Spreadsheet approach – Under the column: Worry? add whether you want to worry about this risk occurring in each row – Y/N. Add any comments.
Mindmap approach – Code any risk you don’t want to worry about. I used a check mark. Add any codes you use to your legend.
Exercise: Leveraging the Stakeholder Matrix to identify risks
You have likely started this process with the previous exercises. However, when many of us think of risks, we don’t always consider the risks as a result of others. We are going to do this within our Stakeholder Matrix. You can then connect this to your Risk Register.
For those of you who are super-motivated to create a database, love pivot tables, etc – you can use any number of tools to do this.
Just beware of spending more time preparing the perfect planning solutions than you are executing the change. Bias practicing your change.
Pull out your Stakeholder Matrix and add the columns Risks and Resources.
For each stakeholder:
What risks does this person present to my successfully executing this change?
Does this individual control a resource or skill I need to execute this change? If so, which resource?
Go back to your Risk Register (either Spreadsheet or Mindmap) and add any identified Risks to your risk register in the appropriate location.
Follow the instructions from the previous exercise and add to your Risk Register:
Name of the risk/opportunity
Probability and Impact
Whether this is something worth worrying about.
Spreadsheet approach – Add a column – Stakeholder – and add the person(s) to the risk. You could have multiple people. This spreadsheet has been entirely filled out. We will talk about Mitigation and Contingency planning in the next chapter.
Mindmap approach – Add the risk/opportunity to the appropriate location in your mindmap. Identify the stakeholders within your risk. Code as needed.
Risk Mitigation – How you can turn the odds in your favor – test it on yourself first.
One of the ways you can mitigate risk is by the selection of the risk that you take.
Some environments and people are risk averse and likely for good reason. Others have a much higher tolerance for risk.
I’m going to use the products from an international grocery store trip for an example.
Item one is the donut peach. Now, if you’re trying a donut peach for the first time, this is at a fairly low risk. Most of us have had peaches and we know whether we like peaches. A donut peach tastes like a peach. It smells like a peach. It looks like a peach, just a little squishy.
This, to me is like an upgrade to a known tool, such as project management systems. I know we’ve got a project management system. We just need to do an upgrade to it or transition to one that’s somewhat similar. So… low risk change.
Slightly higher risk is, say, going from a pear, which many of us have had before and many of us know we like them, to grabbing a random, unfamiliar fruit like an “Asian pear.” I can make some assumptions about an “Asian Pear” based on the name and observation. It being called a “pear” means that someone, somewhere, thought it was like a pear. It looks like a combination of an apple and pear. It seems hard like an apple. It was in the fruit section, so there is a good chance it is both sweet and non-poisonous.
The risk here is that I can’t predict the texture without cutting into it or the flavor without tasting it. Upon cutting into it and tasting it, the “asian pear” is closer to an apple in texture and sweet like an unripened pear.
The analogy I would use here would be – I’ve got a fairly good project management process. I need a tool to help me automate it or help me solve a problem that I’m struggling with in my current process. Like resource management.
Again, it’s a calculated risk, slightly higher risk tolerance.
An even higher risk – would be spicy octopus dumplings. Now, depending on how you feel about octopus, your risk level on this might be higher than most people. I happen to like octopus when it’s done well.
You can still mitigate the risk through gradual exposure to lower risk activities.
An example – let’s say I’ve never tried octopus or dumplings and have no idea whether I can tolerate spicy food.
Lowest risk – eating something familiar in a dumpling format.
Slightly higher risk – eating something familiar with a bit of pepper to see whether I can tolerate spicy.
If the first two experiments work, the next higher risk activity would be either to try a very bland, flavorless fish (such as cod) or, if I know that I like fish, trying octopus.
Once I know I like dumplings, I like spicy food, and I like dumplings – I could safely say I would like Spicy Octopus dumplings.
Risk Mitigation – Involving Others
Let’s continue with our Asian Grocery trip analogy.
The type of change we want to make is the higher-risk change of Spicy Octopus Dumplings.
The risk is no longer just to ourselves (will I succeed or fail), our friends are also impacted.
Because now I want to share my change with them – whether they like it or not.
Let’s say that I want to serve spicy octopus dumplings to my friends – Mary, Dave, June, and Mike.
The Spicy Octopus Dumplings are the change. Mary, Dave, June, and Mike are the people impacted by the change.
If we want to serve Spicy Octopus Dumplings (the change) to our friends, it helps to figure out whether my friends are ready and open for the experience.
I am going to assume that none of my friends have ever had spicy octopus dumplings before.
To evaluate the potential success of the meal, I am going to break down the components.
For spicy octopus dumplings, we need to ask whether:
The individual likes (or can at least tolerate) spicy food.
The individual has tried, likes, or can tolerate) octopus.
If they haven’t tried octopus before, do they like seafood?
The individual has tried and likes dumplings.
I’m going to add whether the person has tried and liked other forms of Korean food to this questionnaire. If the person is familiar with the flavor profile of Korean food, they are more likely to accept the change.
Mary – loves spicy food, has tried and liked octopus at the local sushi joint, and thinks dumplings are awesome. She hasn’t had Korean food before, but she’s an adventurous eater. The spicy octopus dumplings shouldn’t be a problem.
Dave – likes spicy food and loves dumplings. He’s never had octopus before, but he likes other forms of seafood. And he’s never tried Korean food, but he’s willing to try. He also has a high likelihood of liking the spicy octopus dumplings.
June – likes dumplings and is OK with some forms of seafood – white fish is ok, but things like clams, oysters and strong tasting fish are not. She also doesn’t tolerate spicy food and thinks that octopus is disgusting. She’s also very suspicious of Korean food and is not going to try it voluntarily. Spicy Octopus dumplings are going to be a harder sell.
And Mike’s entire diet is hamburgers, fries and diet cokes.
If the organization is mostly filled with Marys and Daves as we attempt to implement the spicy octopus dumpling change, you are likely going to be ok.
You can reduce some of the risk of rejection by introducing them to Korean food and Octopus.
And since Mary already enjoys octopus, she can help Dave with acceptance.
It helps if YOU have experience with and are a fan of Korean food if you are trying to implement the spicy octopus dumpling change. This will help guide your friends with NO experience and provide a safe space for trying out this new thing.
But what if your environment is filled with Junes and Mikes?
You have a mismatch between your organization and the change you wish to create.
You will likely need to adjust.
Maybe you can have leek dumplings as your change instead? You are still serving dumplings – but it is not spicy, not octopus, and generally pretty mild. And if June likes Chinese food, you have a much higher chance of succeeding.
Then there is Mike. How much do you need to accommodate Mike?
Is he a senior executive or CEO?
Can you provide an alternative that does not impact the baseline change you need to make?
Do we even have to dis-invite Mike to make this change happen?
Or do we have to give up on the change altogether?
The answers and solution depend on your circumstances.
No matter what – keep an eye on WHY you are making the change.
If your goal is to have a nice dinner with friends – maybe a burger and fries will work after all.
Prevention isn’t nearly as glamorous-looking as fire-fighting.
You can’t play the hero if there is no crisis. You can’t rescue people if there is nothing to rescue them from. You can’t solve the problem if there is no problem to be solved.
We’re more likely to focus on the crisis. We’re not naturally going to focus on all the peaceful areas.
We’re more likely to focus on the pain. We’re not naturally going to focus on all the areas that don’t hurt. We’re not naturally going to focus on all the areas that feel good, that are going well, that don’t NEED attention.
Something I’ve discovered over my years of corporate life is that we are great at measuring the response to crises, but we don’t measure the crises that could be prevented in the first place.
We celebrate rescuers and fire-fighters – but we don’t celebrate the quiet people in the background who keep things running with no drama.
IT and Project Management folks try to measure this through a metric called “cost of rework.”
This is the cost of doing work because it wasn’t done right in the first place.
This cost is measured in both money and time.
Unfortunately, this metric is usually measured when the rework is occurring.
It is not often estimated BEFORE the fact as “here’s how much money/time we are saving if we do it right.”
I would add energy to the mix. Rework has strong emotions attached. Anger, frustration, recrimination (both self and other directed), blame, and shame are among the most common. These emotions drain precious energy.
Here, I am not talking about the rework as a result of experiments. You plan for that rework as a natural result of the process. You still want the final product to have minimal “technical debt” or inefficiencies as a result of things not quite working the way you need them to.
What I am talking about is the rework as a result of being sloppy and cutting corners. This is the rework as a result of surprises and missed considerations.
This, to me, is where risk mitigation becomes an important tool.
Risk mitigation is the plan to minimize the chance of the risk happening and, if the risk does happen, minimizing the impact on our change effort.
The risk management process allows us to leverage our power of disasterization for good. We acknowledge what can go wrong, determine how we can minimize the probability and impact, and come up with a plan if, despite our best efforts, things go wrong anyway.
Use this time as an opportunity to get ALL the things you think will go wrong out of your head and someplace you can see it. You don’t want this to fester and become a big hairy monster.
Fortunately, I have found that once I put all my fears on paper and come up with ways to deal with those fears if they surface, things don’t seem nearly as bad.
For the following exercises, allow yourself some time to think and research.
Be OK with not knowing immediately what you want to do to mitigate the risk or how you want to act if the risk occurs.
Sometimes, these things take some marinating to come up with the right answer.
You want a plan that you can realistically execute.
You may decide, as you sit on your mitigation and contingency plans, that you are OK with just letting stuff happen.
Doing nothing is a valid option.
Exercise: What are you going to do to mitigate that risk?
Let’s return to our risk register – either the spreadsheet or the mindmap.
For this exercise, you have 2 questions:
What can I do to prevent this risk from happening in the first place?
For opportunities, you could reverse the question to ask “What can I do to encourage this opportunity to surface?”
What can I do to reduce the impact of the risk if it does happen?
For opportunities ask “What can I do to maximize the opportunity if it presents itself?”
You may find that you need to do research to figure out an appropriate contingency. Make a note of areas where you need to do research. In a mindmap – you may choose to code it or write a side-note on the mindmap.
Spreadsheet approach – Under the column: Mitigation add your answers to these questions. You may choose to split the Mitigation column Mitigation:Probability and Mitigation:Impact. I chose to put it all in the same column.
Mindmap approach – Add your ideas for mitigation to your mindmap in the appropriate section. I have color-coded the mitigation activities in Green. Add any coding to your legend.
In this example, I have coded any areas where I am unsure of my plan and need to do research with a question mark. I will update these items once I figure out the plan.
Remember – risk registers are working documents. They can be updated as you gain more information and learn things during the execution of your change effort.
Determining what to do if the Risk occurs - Contingency
Contingency plans are what you will do if the risk occurs.
The first step is to identify what that risk occurring looks like.
What will you see that will tip you off that the risk (or opportunity) is about to happen?
It could be as obvious as an email from your boss.
Or as subtle as a change in energy from your child.
I have found it helpful to at least think about how a risk might surface, then put it on paper.
It’s even more important to determine how you will recognize opportunities.
Often, opportunities appear as off-hand comments from a friend.
Or they show up from an unexpected direction – a random ad in your Facebook feed, a piece of email spam, a brief interaction with a stranger.
In an ideal world, those signifiers that the risk/opportunity is presenting itself would be black and white.
Life doesn’t work that way.
There’s an old saying – “Recognition is halfway to solution.”
We want to define how we will recognize when something is up.
Exercise: Identify What you will observe if the risk occurs
This exercise has one question:
How will you recognize that the risk/opportunity is surfacing?
Spreadsheet approach – Under the column: Recognition add your answer to this question.
Mindmap approach – Add your answer to the question to your mindmap in the appropriate section. I have coded the answer with an i. Add any coding to your legend.
Exercise: Develop your Contingency Plans
The main question for this exercise is – if the risk or opportunity occurs, what are you going to do about it?
A secondary question, especially if the risk concerns the inappropriate behavior of another, is “how do I reward positive behavior?”
Spreadsheet approach – Under the column: Contingency add your answers to these questions. Identify whether you need to do research if you are unsure of what you wish to do.
Mindmap approach – Add your ideas for your contingency plan to your mindmap in the appropriate section. I have color-coded the contingency activities in Red. Add any coding to your legend.
In this example, I have coded any areas where I am unsure of my plan and need to do research with a question mark. I will update these items once I figure out the plan.
Creating a Communications Plan
This sounds formal, but we are preparing ourselves for the inevitable haters and challengers, as well as defining ways in which we wish to engage with those who can help and support us.
Consider how you wish to engage with the individuals who surround you as you embark on this change.
How will you react to questions and challenges?
How will you model behavior?
How will you set and enforce the necessary boundaries to make this change stick?
How will you explain yourself when asked?
We have likely been communicating with others throughout this planning process.
The communications plan addresses how we are going to communicate with others as we execute our change.
Exercise: Create a Communications Plan
Pull out your Stakeholder Matrix. Using this reference, we are going to develop a strategy for engaging with each key person.
I’d like you to focus on the people you encounter daily first, then on the people who you might not see daily but who has a strong influence on you (either positive or negative).
Remember – NOT communicating is always an option.
For each person:
Will you discuss this change with this person? Yes or No.
If this person asks, what will you say?
What challenges or comments do you anticipate from this person?
How do you wish to respond?
What behaviors do you need to model around this person?
You can add your answers to the stakeholder matrix OR write them into a separate journal.
I would like you to consider any scenarios you may encounter and how you want to handle each scenario during your change process.
Using our diet example – we can brainstorm different situations we may find ourselves in where our decisions impact our success. For example:
Going out to eat after the kid’s baseball game with the team.
Friday’s donut break at the office
Use this exercise as an opportunity to “dress-rehearse” any situations that may derail you.
What do you want to say if someone calls you out on “different” behavior?
What choices do anticipate will be available and how do you wish to choose?
For those of us who are painfully shy, are extremely introverted, or are generally uncomfortable with humanity – this dress-rehearsal can bring confidence to your interactions.
I found “dress-rehearsal” particularly helpful in my early years of sobriety – especially during professional engagements where not having a drink in my hand, rejecting someone’s offer to buy me a beer, or accepting the offer and asking for iced tea instead was viewed suspiciously.
I knew I didn’t want to get into a discussion of my choice to stop drinking with anyone (particularly my professional colleagues). Instead, I created a set of stock responses.
“I have to drive and I don’t do well when I drink.” Often true for local events.
“I have some work to do early tomorrow morning and I need to stay sharp.” This response tended to cause the other person to tell me to relax for a change and pry into the work I need to get done. I’m also a known workaholic. You may get better results out of this recommendation.
“I’m on medication right now.” Not the best answer – but people tend to not pry further.
“I’m not handling booze well right now.” The truest answer I have. I use this one in non-professional social situations. If someone I didn’t want to talk to started to pry, I would provide graphic descriptions of puking. That (usually) chased people off.
The next step was to change the subject – ideally to get them to talk about themselves or something they are passionate about (besides politics).
“What are you doing that you are most excited about right now?”
“How about them [sports team]?”
“Hasn’t the weather been [lovely/terrible]?”
Grab a conversation-starter resource if you want better ideas for changing the direction of the conversation.
Exercise: Scenario Planning
Brainstorm situations you commonly find yourself in that could potentially derail your change.
For each situation:
What choices do anticipate will be available and how do you wish to choose? What is your “action plan?”
Example: I will order a tonic and lime and ask the bartender to put it in a regular glass instead of the plastic cups they normally use for non-alcoholic drinks.
What questions or challenges do I expect to encounter?
How do I want to respond? Answer for each question/challenge.
Consider doing this exercise before any potentially stressful social interaction or any situation where you have a high change of getting derailed from your change effort.
The Relationship between I and the Environment
One of the many distinctions between the celebrity and the hero … is that one lives only for self while the other acts to redeem society - Bill Moyer, paraphrasing Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
How does your life influence your environment?
How does your life influence you?
How we view and engage the world influences how we influence the world.
This truth appears in the teaching of multiple religions and spiritual practices. Actually, I think it is the core of all of these practices.
The idea is that these teaching provide the personal foundation for engagement by telling you “right” from “wrong.” You are then expected to behave accordingly.
These external frameworks are often helpful. Individual interpretations of these frameworks might not be – but, as Joseph Campbell notes, there are common themes that appear throughout the religious and spiritual traditions.
Each of us is on a Hero’s Journey – with its challenges and victories.
Each of us has a place in the world and an expectation to serve within that world.
Our purpose is to determine how we can best use our experience to serve.
Love thy neighbor.
Our current environment expands the definition of “neighbor.”
It invites us to stand in different places to see differently.
“The shift from a geocentric to a heliocentric world view…seems to have removed man from the center – and the center seemed so important. Spiritually, however, the center is where sight is. Stand on a height and view the horizon. Stand on the moon and view the whole earth rising – even, by way of television, in your parlor.”
Joseph Campbell, quoted by Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth
Campbell made that observation after observing the video from Apollo 11 in 1969.
50 years later, we have more options around where we wish to stand. The Internet and technology allow for new perspectives. New ways of defining “neighbor.” New options for determining what “local” means.
It is this wealth of options around where we can place our center that may be causing the anxiety and angst many of us are feeling.
It’s hard to be agile if the floor we are dancing on is unstable.
Before, it was pretty easy to know where you were dancing. There weren’t as many options.
Now, we are forced to take responsibility for developing a strong center.
We can’t rely on our institutions to provide that for us. (Please see the recent US Government partial shutdown for an example).
Where are you standing right now?
How stable is it?
Who are your current neighbors?
What does your environment look like?
What is your center?
Is it stable enough to build on?
Observing and Evaluating Your Environment
During the course of the analysis and preparation for planning, I am constantly observing the environment.
Organizations, family groups, community groups, and communities of practice are cultures, with their own rituals.
Treating them like an anthropologist treats their culture of study always struck me as a good way to go.
As a consultant, I am essentially a Moderate Observer – someone who attempts to balance insider and outsider roles and maintain a level of detachment in an attempt to remain objective.
Once I get into the throes of the Project Manager role in execution, however, I tend to shift into the Active Observer role.
Sometimes, it’s easier to get stuff done when they think you are “one of them”.
I’m still figuring out this balance.
During Observation, I’m looking for the following:
Ideological Norms – What people say
Behavioral Norms – What people do
Level of integrity between what people say and what people do. Where are the gaps?
Implicit Norms – The “unspoken rules”
What is accepted?
What is “taboo”?
Risk Tolerance – Do people feel safe enough to make a mistake?
Change Tolerance – Are people open to change?
Between key individuals – Friendly? Guarded? Hostile?
Between groups – Friendly? Antagonistic?
Again, I keep all this information to myself unless specifically asked about what I see in the culture.
I’m not looking for fixes. I’m typically not in the position to “fix” the culture anyway. I’m just looking for an accurate assessment of my environment. What I’m working with.
My final step is to take all of the information I’ve collected and begin to use it to develop my project plan, stakeholder management plan, and project management approach.
Any Wikipedia articles should be used as a starting point, not the end-all, be-all. Wikipedia – Cultural Anthropology, Methods; Participant Observation: A Guide for Fieldworkers; Watching Closely: A Guide to Ethnographic Observation (affiliate link). This book will help you build this skill across contexts; McKinsey.com – Culture for a Digital Age; McKinsey.com – Overcoming a Bias Against Risk
Pattern recognition helps us to make sense of what we are seeing.
Being busy is valued in today’s society. As a result, we forget to stop and watch what is happening around us.
Are we seeing what we expected to see? Does what you are seeing map to a pattern you have seen before? Is there a variable in this context that has not appeared in prior encounters with similar scenarios?
You have likely been around the block a few times. 30-60, college-educated, 10-30 years in their careers.
At this stage, you have probably seen at least one cycle of trends. Centralization / Decentralization, Onsite/Remote, Hierarchical/Networked, Independent / Teamwork, or whatever polarity tends to dominate your field.
You have also seen what works and what doesn’t, and have likely formed strong opinions based on this experience.
You have also formed clear mental models and frameworks. Mastery is built on these models and frameworks. There’s significant value in these models and frameworks and, in most instances, they work well. Models and frameworks help you make sense of what is going on around you and help you integrate new information as it comes in.
It may be worthwhile to get clear on the assumptions you are using when you observe what is going on around you. Are these assumptions accurate for this context?
Often, the answer is “yes,” but there are still surprises, and it’s good to be aware of the assumptions you are making when you are making judgments and decisions.
Is there something in the environment that you have not seen before that may impact the patterns you recognize?
Many of us have been trained to write off these anomalies. How often has the thing you wrote off returned to bite you? What does the pattern look like when you account for the anomaly?
I invite you to spend some time observing your surroundings, looking for patterns, and questioning your assumptions.
Optional Exercise: Evaluating Your Environment
We have already spent time evaluating your environment in this chapter as we looked at our relationships, predicted behavior, and asked questions.
I invite you to spend time observing what is present. Separate your observations from what people are telling you, or what you WANT to see.
Pretend you are an anthropologist. Dispassionately observe behavior.
What are people saying in relationship to this change you wish to make?
What are these same people doing in relationship to this change you wish to make?
Are there gaps between what someone says and what they do? What are these gaps?
What are the “unspoken rules?”
What is accepted?
What is “taboo”?
What is your risk tolerance? What is the risk tolerance of those around you?
Are the people around you open to change?
What Relationship Behaviors do you observe in your environment?
Between key individuals – Friendly? Guarded? Hostile?
Between groups – Friendly? Antagonistic?
A good technique is to spend each “observation session” on a specific question.
You may wish to do this during your early change planning as a way to identify how supportive your environment will be to the change you wish to make.
Planning for Stealth
Sometimes, we need to be stealthy about our change.
There could be consequences if your plans became public (such as job hunting while working for wildly dysfunctional management).
We may find ourselves in a hostile environment.
Moreover, our confidence about the change may be fragile and may not be able to withstand onslaughts from outside.
When planning for stealth, it becomes doubly imperative to build in security, confidentiality, and secrecy into your processes.
In a work situation – keep all of your job-hunting activities off organizational laptops, mobile phones, and email.
In a domestic situation – leverage the use of safety deposit boxes, library computers, disposable phones, and trustworthy professionals, friends, and support groups (such as Al-Anon).
You want to make sure ALL your planning efforts remain confidential and private if this is your situation. Lock up any journals, spreadsheets, and other documentation behind password protected (and, ideally, encrypted) solutions. Vary your passwords and PIN codes. Leverage tools such as LastPass to keep track of your passwords. Do some research on current best-practice information security to prevent people who may pose a threat to you or your change effort from finding out what you are up to.
I am fortunate in that I am not in a position where I need to work stealthily. Solid advice for planning for stealth (especially in extreme situations) can be found at https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/getting-out-of-an-abusive-relationship.htm
Do what you need to so that you are secure and safe as you go through this change.
If you need to be stealthy because you are in physical danger (real or perceived) – get professional guidance. A starting place to find help is your country’s national Domestic Violence prevention organization.
Love it, Change it, or Leave it
If you find yourself in a wildly unsupportive environment, you have a hard decision to make.
Are you going to work with what you have?
Are you going to try and change things?
Are you going to walk away?
It is, fundamentally, the situation many of us find ourselves in within our workplaces or in any other community we engage.
As Karen Kollenz-Qutard points out in her TedTalk – you have a fighting chance of changing your organization if you have:
Support from key stakeholders – and this is where many organizations fall short. Good luck with changing the culture if the leaders are not willing to model, support, and reinforce positive behaviors or actively punish these behaviors.
I’m at a point in my life where I don’t have the time or energy to bang my head against that wall if any of those three elements are missing.
We can talk all day about what is wrong and what “leaders” (read – others) should do about it.
I’m going to assume that anything that “leaders” and “others” will do is out of our control.
Furthermore, I am also going to assume that the “leaders” will not change their mind, change the way they operate, or be replaced anytime soon. Often, the leaders are isolated from the impact of their behavior. Furthermore, keeping things status quo benefits them.
Assuming that the “leaders” aren’t going to change and the system we work in isn’t going to change – it means that it is up to us, individually, to make the change.
We need to take care of ourselves, even if it means removing ourselves from toxic environments.
This is true in both our professional environments and in our personal environments.
Toxicity in one environment will, eventually, creep into other corners of our life.
We’re essentially left with 3 options if we find ourselves in an unsupportive environment:
Walk away (Leave It) – A great reason to walk away is when you are faced with what Bill Burnett and Dave Evans calls a “Gravity problem.”25These are problems you can’t do anything about. Other great reasons to walk away: You don’t have the power or support to implement change. You are fighting entrenched interests. No one else wants you to make the change. The cards are stacked against you.(Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, Designing Your Life, 22)26(Beck,Spiral Dynamics, 122)
Reframe (Love It) – Are you able to shift and prod the environment into something more supportive? Can you nudge what you are doing and the message about what you are doing into something that better fits the environment while still maintaining the core of what you are trying to accomplish?
Connect (Change It) – Can you connect your change with your stakeholders? Is there a way you can set up your change such that they want to support you?27(Don Beck, Spiral Dynamics, 122-123)
If you are not in a position to remove yourself from the toxic environment right now – I have the following insights from my own experience:
Disengage or distract yourself. Psychopathic people do not deserve your energy or effort. You might as well put that energy and effort into something positive that empowers you. And in getting away ASAP. You won’t change them, no matter what your ego tells you. I learned this the hard way. Many times.
Recognize the source of your insecurity. Remember, over-demanding psychopaths WANT insecure over-achievers. I have found this to be true both personally AND professionally.
Spend the time getting very clear on what you want your life to look like and why. You will need that information to help you make decisions and evaluate options as you plot your next move
Find your tribe and be extra mindful with your colleagues, even the ones you don’t like. Chances are, you are ALL suffering. If others around you, particularly those in leadership positions, won’t model the behavior, you can. Those individual interactions make all the difference.
It is imperative that we focus our energies on creating supportive environments for ourselves and stop tolerating toxic environments.
Our health and our lives depend on it.
Guerilla Change Management
Guerilla Change Management, fundamentally, is about small, low-risk, experiments.
It’s an attempt to gently nudge unsupportive environments towards change.
I performed many technology implementations. My favorite way to implement a technology (particularly one that no one sees the need for, but I’m paid to make the implementation successful) is to:
Build a small little toy using the technology.
Placing the little toy where it is easy to find.
Take any openings people give you to show them the little toy and let them play with it.
If the toy looks good and works, the person will spread the word.
I’m a big fan of guerrilla change management. This is how I implemented Moodle at a large ambulatory care center back in 2007. This was well before eLearning was accepted as a legitimate option for professional development. The primary metric of the success of “training” was “butts-in-seats.”
Attempting to get some traction around accepting eLearning and to provide training services on an as-needed basis (next to impossible in a scenario where you have 2 trainers and 300 doctors across multiple buildings), I used the following steps:
I’m a big fan of pilots. NOT implementations that they SAY are pilots – but real pilots, where the stakes are low, the pilot is truly treated as an experience, and the project team and champion can safely pull the plug if it appears that things won’t work.
Where toy offerings work well for products, pilots are great for testing processes and the interaction between tools and processes.
Step 1: You and a few co-workers get together and play with the tool. Invite the IT person you’ve cultivated to play with you. The boss too, if he or she is that type of person.
Step 2: Choose a non-offensive feature and low-stakes process that can serve as your initial offering.
Step 3: As you get more comfortable as a group, consider adding other tools. I’ve set up Moodle course that are really project areas. All the members (all 5 of us) are listed as facilitators. We made the course private and any of us can download the most current item. Instead of digging through shared drives or mistakenly looking at outdated materials – everything is in one place. There may be some stops and starts depending on how much stress the team is under. Stress causes people to quickly return to old habits. That’s OK. If they saw it the first time, as soon as everyone has bandwidth – try again.
Step 4: If things are working the way you all want, take any opportunities to share the toy. “You know, we’ve been playing with this thing, it may solve your problem……”
Step 5: Offer to let them play with it. They may or may not say Yes immediately. That’s OK. It’s good to let things stew. With enough time, they will find uses for it.
It’s a slower process than the dramatic big bang implementations – but the change seems to be longer lasting and much less stressful for all parties.
At an eLearning Guild conference back in 2014, I had a chance to have lunch with a group from a health care system outside of Kansas City, MO.
My lunch companions from Kansas City reminded me that there are still quite a few parallels between the health care audience of highly educated doctors and nurses and the higher ed audience of highly educated faculty and staff.
In both cases, it is often best to move slowly and stealthily.
We talked about how our audiences have started accepting alternate ways of “training” outside of the expected classroom model – especially since the beginning of the 2010s. Now – they are asking questions about how they can make these “eLearning things” more interesting.
From my perspective – having been in both higher ed and in health care - This is HUGE progress.
In my experience, when I talk to clients about gamification, scenario-based learning etc. … eyes glaze over, they get a bit of the deer-in-headlights thing going on, and they ask to convert the PowerPoint with the next buttons. Just maybe change the graphics.
If I tell them – “Use your examples at the front and use them to illustrate your point vs. at the back after you gave them the info” – I get a lot more traction and much more interesting material.
The whole discussion as to whether “training” is necessary in the first place for a lot of what crosses my desk… I could spend the rest of my career fighting (and frequently losing) that fight.
Upon reflection, the changes that have had the most traction with others in both my professional life and personal life have been the changes that have seemed the most “certain” to the other party.
It is easier for others to support me when they understand what I am trying to do and feel confident that I will be successful.
Sometimes, it takes “proving it” for others to reach that conclusion.
Don’t just say that you are going to change. Demonstrate it. Repeatedly. Consistently.
That demonstration is more powerful than anything else you can do to muster support.
Exercise: Update Your Kanban Board and Backlog (All change types)
If you have not been keeping your Kanban board updated, I’d like you to do the following:
Update your Kanban board with your current activities.
What work do you currently have “in progress”?
Add any tasks that have surfaced as a result of the exercises in this chapter.
Color-code your activities into any programs you had set up.
Make sure it is clear who is involved.
Do you need to talk to someone? Name them.
Do you need to give someone something? Name who receives what.
Identify any deadlines for these new activities and whether they are “hard” or “soft” deadlines
Identify the importance of these activities (remember, importance is whether they are important to YOU)
In this case, importance is not just how important it is to you, but also how this action impacts your change project.
Exercise: Adding Tasks to Your Task Breakdown (Implementation, Impermanent Push)
You may wish to add any tasks that have surfaced in this chapter to your Task Breakdown.
Whether you choose to do so is dependent upon:
How detailed you wish to be with your plan. Some of us are completionists.
Whether a specific outcome is a dependency for another task.
Example: My change effort is to re-landscape my yard (Impermanent Push). I need to borrow my neighbor’s chainsaw to clean out the scraggly bushes in my yard.
The tasks I would add are “Ask neighbor for chainsaw” and “Source potential alternatives for chainsaw (optional).”
Add the task to the appropriate place in your Work Breakdown structure.
“In preparing for battle, I have often found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower.
We have spent the past 3 chapters planning. Those plans provide us with clarification of our direction and certainty around how to get started and what to do next.
In our next chapter, I’m going to help you with troubleshooting and provide guidance around what to expect during execution.
Your plans will change as you learn new things during the process, the environment (and the people within it) respond to your actions, and you start seeing results (positive and negative) from your efforts.