leadership dot #2359: levers for change

In yesterday’s dot, I shared the Change Framework (developed by School Retool) that provides a model to articulate an overarching reason for change, identify behaviors that would illustrate the aspiration is occurring, determine a few big ideas toward achieving those behaviors and design several small projects or hacks to make progress toward those ideas.

Hacks are small experiments intentionally chosen to hopefully take a step toward achieving a big idea and to also help the changemakers quickly discover what does or does not work. Hacks are about learning by doing so that iterations can be made early on in the process.

Levers for Change can help generate hacks through focused brainstorming. You can pick one of the levers – Space, Events, Schedule, Finance, Process, Role, Ritual, Incentive or Communication – and try to generate as many hacks as possible to help achieve a big idea through changes in that category. For example, if your Big Idea is to Increase Community Involvement, you could attempt to hack in Space by opening a satellite center or having office hours in a mall; you could have a hack in Roles by redesigning a position to do more community outreach; Communication could involve a thank you note or follow up call for every community member who engages with you, etc. School Retool examples can be seen in this 2-minute video.

No matter how much you strategize, plan or design your initial ideas are not going to be perfect. By creating hacks – and hacks and hacks and hacks and hacks – you will take enough small steps to achieve big change. Think broadly and creatively about the many levers of change you have at your disposal and then get started by pulling one.

For a copy of the Lever of Change handout, click here.




leadership dot #2358: change framework

Organizations often have a paradoxical challenge when trying to implement change: their aspirations are too small and their implementation plans are too big. Through work I’m doing with the Alia Innovation Cohort, I was introduced to a model that addresses both ends of the spectrum.

The Change Framework, developed by School Retool, starts with the identification of a big Aspiration – an inspiring, clear vision of why you are doing the work of change. Next, a short list of Behaviors are identified –if you achieved the aspiration what behaviors would you see. It is easy to have a lofty aspiration, but making it concrete by specifying what it would look like in action helps to design a few Big Ideas toward achieving the desired behaviors. Big Ideas are evidence-informed ideas that could be game-changers – if accomplished they would lead to the behaviors that would achieve the aspiration. Finally, implementation occurs through Hacks – small pilot projects or experiments to learn what achieves movement toward the Big Idea and what doesn’t.

Examples from School Retool help to illustrate the framework in action. The project adopted an aspiration to create “Deeper Learning”. Behaviors that illustrate Deeper Learning included seeing more students engaged in projects and an increase in student voice. Some of the Big Ideas include peer-to-peer learning programs, making learning relevant and making student work public. From there, you can imagine the hundreds of hacks that could move a school closer to achieving its Big Idea. For Alia’s work in reimagining the child welfare system, the aspiration is “Family connections are always preserved and strengthened” with behaviors of fewer children in out-of-home placements, increased community involvement and a shift in the mindset of staff.

If you are engaged in transformation efforts – and who isn’t these days – give the Change Framework a try. Articulating the model’s components in a concise manner will go a long way toward helping you actually achieve the change you desire. [More on hacks and levers of change tomorrow.]

For a copy of the framework, click here.





leadership dot #2357: failure

In her book Becoming, Michelle Obama writes: “Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then it’s escalated.”

I love the concept of this. Most people think of failure as an occurrence — something that happens – but discount the role their attitude plays in the process. They think of failure at the end of the line but in reality, it can be a mindset that influences the process from the beginning.

To help yourself become more successful, banish the doubts and fears as you venture into something new. You don’t have to be Pollyanna about it but believing that you will accomplish your goals can go a long way toward making that true.

leadership dot #2356: hole

I recently hit a curb and put a hole in my tire. It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but my car didn’t come with a spare. That meant that I had to have my car towed, buy a new tire and be without a vehicle for a day while all this transpired. It was less than convenient.

The tire incident reminded me about all the small things that we take for granted. We assume that the tires on a car will work. That the lights will turn on. That the paychecks will be delivered. That the copier will have paper and the computer will have properly stored our documents.

Infrastructure is what makes all the other work possible. In this season of Thanksgiving, share your appreciation with those in your organization who tend to your infrastructure and keep the place running. Don’t let a slow leak of enthusiasm deflate your staff or let one little hole grind your whole operation to a halt.

leadership dot #2355: contrast

Black Friday was like a graduate course in customer service – providing lessons on how to do it well and definitely a primer on what not to do. I usually don’t partake in the madness, but a friend’s desire for that one certain Early Bird Special found me waiting outside in line at 5:45am, and once you’re up, well…

My gold seal goes to Lowe’s and Menard’s. Lowe’s had free donuts, coffee and hot chocolate for the hearty shoppers and randomly gave out free gift cards which reduced our bill by $105! Menard’s knew they would be busy and prepared for it – having all hands on deck to direct traffic to the checkout lines, setting up ad hoc registers to aid in processing and having staff all throughout the store available to help customers locate items in the ad. The parking lot was literally overflowing onto the frontage road but we waited in line less time at Menard’s than any other establishment.

Contrast that with JoAnn’s which had spectacular coupons and one (yes, one) cashier. The line literally was to the back of the store to check out and a similar size line cued up to first have the fabric cut. I did a U-turn as soon as I walked in. The Red Cross blood donation center was reminiscent of JoAnn’s – even though there had been multiple commercials urging people to donate, they had to turn people away due to inadequate staffing to handle any of the influx in volume. Kohl’s, too, had great coupons and literally an hour long wait in line to use them. While they had all their registers open, unlike Menard’s they limited themselves to the existing terminals instead of utilizing customer service, temporary registers or hand-held devices.

While Black Friday may not be the frenzy that it once was, there still was a noticeable uptick in the number of people in the stores. It was an opportunity for retailers not only to make some quick sales but to make an impression on shoppers who may not normally frequent their business. Some stores took this seriously and made it an experience to remember while others did more harm than good.

Spending resources to promote your organization without a proportionate investment in staffing is worse than doing nothing. If you incentivize business, be prepared to conduct it.

leadership dot #2354: potato

It used to be that people were admonished for being a “couch potato” – someone who sat around on their couch watching television. In today’s world, I think that could be changed to “chair potato” as a moniker to describe someone who sits in their chair for hours playing computer games.

In order to provide the best angle and competitive advantage, stores now sell specialized gaming chairs. Gone are the days of sitting in a beanbag or just laying down on the floor, now there must be a custom piece of equipment for play.

I can see why “sitting is the new smoking.” It goes far beyond the office worker at their computer all day and begins with kids now sitting in their fancy chairs instead of playing kickball in the street or shooting hoops in the driveway.

There were enough potatoes as part of the Thanksgiving feast. Get outside and leave the chair behind for today!

leadership dot #2353: incarnations

Millions of dollars are spent on branding and the development of that perfect icon, but as soon as a new logo is put into place, the old brand design is banished. Great efforts are taken to replace all of the old images with the new as soon as possible.

Pepsi has taken a different twist on its logos and instead of abandoning the look they have brought back previous designs as part of an anniversary celebration. Pepsi fountain cups currently represent five different incarnations of the logo, illustrating its evolution from 1945 to the present.

It cost them nothing extra to do and has the added benefit of having people actually pay attention to the cups instead of glossing over them due to their sameness.

Is there something in your archives that you could resurrect for a specified period? Retro looks are quite popular these days – maybe you could play off of that and bring back a vintage logo or masthead for your organization. Everything old is new again – just ask Pepsi!


leadership dot #2352: be open

“When we are closed to ideas, what we hear is criticism. When we are open to ideas, what we get is advice.” – Simon Sinek

For many families, Thanksgiving is a weekend of togetherness with people they may not often see. It can bring up emotional baggage and preconceived notions about who is the “cool aunt” and who is the “crazy uncle” or other designations.

If you find yourself in a conversation with someone, try to set aside the labels and be open to Sinek’s advice. You may find yourself grateful to learn something new about the world or yourself.


leadership dot #2351: compromise

Walmart was selling what I believe to be a genius idea: half of a pumpkin pie combined with half of a pecan pie. Instead of forcing people to choose one over the other – or to buy two pies – they made it easy to have it both ways.

Use that split pie as a metaphor for your holiday conversations. Politics has added a new layer of tension to family gatherings, but instead of arguing over who is right or which is best, find a way to accommodate both flavors. You can allow the two different sides to coexist without a unanimous point of view. Try to compromise enough to allow everyone to enjoy their holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

leadership dot #2350: uncomplicated

I recently attended a conference that could be described as no frills. The event was held in three library conference rooms. Registration included a hand-written nametag and a 1pg schedule – no fancy lanyards, conference bags or program book. When registration was completed, the tables were repurposed to become the lunch table, where trays of sandwiches from the grocery store were served on plain paper plates and beverages were cans of pop taken directly from the 12-pack carton. There were no tablecloths, theme decorations, signs or even water bottles for the speakers. It was as low-budget as they come.

And yet, the conference was a good one. Those who were there received relevant content from knowledgeable speakers, participants had an opportunity to network with others in their field and the sessions seemed to stimulate lively conversations in the halls. I would deem the event a success.

Think about this conference if you are running around like crazy today trying to get ready for the Thanksgiving feast. You don’t need the perfect place settings, exactly the right décor or the finest wine to have a wonderful event. Keep your focus on the reason you are gathering and give thanks for being together, not for the unnecessary trappings surrounding it. Uncomplicated is a good mantra to follow, not just at the holidays, but for many other aspects of life.