Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Private blog addresses not included in OldReader

Private blog addresses for BGI: Susty Doz - Organizational Leadership

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James Coburn:

Ashley Coale & Maren

Jeannie Friedman

Emily Reitman

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Positive Psychology & Motivational Interviewing

A brief look at two powerful frameworks for change: Positive Psychology and Motivational Interviewing

"We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise, which achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving individuals, families, and communities." -Martin Seligman & Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Positive psychology is focused on making normal life more fulfilling by nurturing latent genius and talent. It focuses on the values, strengths, virtues, and talents of a client, and promotes them. It is a neuroscientific approach to understanding happiness. Through the humanistic lens pioneered by Maslow and Rogers, positive psychology explains development and motivation through hope, growth, and resilience.

The field has seen significant growth over the past twenty years, and it's field of research aligns with "purpose" driven life. "Mindfulness" psychology, and inquiry into a "meaningful life" have contributed greatly to the field of research.

Motivational Interviewing is "... a collaborative, person centered form of guiding to elicit and strengthen motivation for change."

The MI approach is:
  1. A conversation about change
  2. Collaborative, honoring autonomy - not experts delivering to recipients
  3. Evocative, calling forth an individual's own motivation and commitment

The 'spirit' of Motivational interviewing has three elements:
  1. Collaboration (vs. Confrontation) - the client is the "expert"
  2. Evocation (Drawing out, vs. imposing on)
  3. Autonomy (vs. Authority) - the power for change lies within the client

The guiding principles of Motivational Interviewing are:
  1. Express empathy
  2. Support self-efficacy
  3. Roll with resistance - avoid the righting reflex
  4. Develop discrepancy - gap analysis
I find the overlaps of these disciplines fascinating, am curious about their implications on emergent leadership and change management. Stay tuned!

Organizational Development: Polarities

"Improving organizations requires understanding them. Understanding anything as complex as modern organizations points to the importance of good theory. While this may sound academic to those who labor in the organizational trenches, good theories are pragmatic and grounded. They explain and predict. They serve as frameworks for making sense of the world around us, organizing diverse forms and sources of information, and taking informed action." - Joan Gallos

As I reflect on the learnings I've gleaned this year in Management and Organizational Leadership, I start with the obvious:
A plethora of tools, stakeholder analyses, asset maps, situational analyses, communication plans, project management plans and strategies, etc.
Theories to understand their application: Systems thinking, Morgan's organizational metaphors, Galbraith's Star Model, Hanna's Organizational Performance Model, Learning Organizations, Human Resource strategies etc.

All of these allow us to observe an organization through a particular lens. They give us a framework to look at the nuts and bolts of what's happening with an organization.

In a human metaphor, each tool gives us insight into particular aspects of any individual. We could study the structural skeleton of an individual, or their circulatory system. We might look at their cultural and anthropological history. If we're particularly adept, we seek to understand how each of these systems interacts with each other.

Every individual/organization is extremely unique. And at the same time, we are all of the same essence. Working with this polarity is fundamental to understanding universal truth.

Effective organizational development is founded in polarity management:
  • Horizontal or vertical growth
  • Parts or the whole
  • Conformity or creativity
  • Heuristic or algorithmic
  • Process or results
  • Feeling or thinking

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Change Management

The ability to manage change is critical to an organization's ability to thrive in a dynamic world. Often times, the need for change is reactive, discontinuous, and often triggered by existing organizational crises (Luecke, 2003). Given this tumultuous context, it's not surprising that 70-80% of all organizational change initiatives fail (Balogun & Hope, 2004).

This staggering factoid launched me into research around best practices for change management - of which there are hundreds of articles. Probably the most interesting article, was that compared several of the most prominent change management theories, those of Kotter, Kanter, and Luecke.

Immediately after diving into this content, I attended Hunter Lovins' and Kevin Wilhelm's seminar course on "Managing for Sustainability". Wilhelm has content specifically on change management and implementation; I was particularly impressed with these visuals.

Still feeling unsatisfied about practical strategies around change management, I asked the question, "Recognizing the importance of change management, and the importance of these frameworks - what's the missing element that drives success?"

According to Wilhelm, Lovins, and many other authors, there is no easy answer. No silver bullet.

So what's the tough answer?

I noticed a recurring theme around best practices. The theme of intuition, cultural engagement, relationships, and soft skills. Metrics rarely capture these themes effectively. It makes sense, if we only speak to half of our stakeholders brains(the numbers side), and don't effectively engage them fully, there's still a high chance that they won't change.

I'm reminded of the Education team project last year, where we researched the effectiveness of curriculum implementation in public school districts. Often times, school districts would attempt to adopt a new curriculum, not give the faculty the appropriate on boarding, and when metrics slipped, shifted to yet another new curriculum. They didn't give appropriate training, nor did they give it enough time. School districts became so obsessed with their metrics, they forgot to talk to their people.

This is also a common theme in business. I've heard over and over, "Our management keeps changing the rules, every six months there's a new "strategic initiative". We all just duck our heads and ignore it, waiting for the next change to come." Sound familiar?

One of Michael Porter's key pillars around strategy is Continuity. Stability is the core of strategy, strategy emerges and evolves, working with uncertainty.

What if we operated with three brains? Dr. Robert Cooper highlights some science that we're all intuitively aware of. We have three brains; Our head brain, our heart, and our gut. People who have worked with the enneagram may be familiar with this concept. For change management to be successful, we must both use all of our brains, and engage all of them as well. Change management around sustainability is a great place for this to happen.

As I begin my work in helping craft and communicate Seattle Children's Hospital's master strategic sustainability plan, I'll lay my foundation down in numbers. But my real work will be in the stories and relationships.


Balogun, J. Hope, H. Exploring Strategic Change, 2nd edition. London, Prentice Hall. 2004.

Cooper, R. The Other 90%: How to unlock your vast untapped potential for leadership and life. New York, NY. Three Rivers Press. 2001.

Luecke, R. Managing Change and Transition. Boston, MA. Harvard Business School Press. 2003.

Wilhelm, K. Making Sustainability Stick: The blueprint for implementation. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Education Inc. 2014.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Global Warming Language

When we talk about about global warming, what language are we speaking?

At BGI we learn a lot about effective communication. We learn the language of accounting, finance, marketing, strategy, and operations so we can make a business case for a new venture. How effectively we can tell a story truly impacts the outcomes we experience. We've learned specifically how to communicate aspects of the triple(or quadruple) bottom line. 

Effective communication depends on understanding your audience. Are we talking to investors, family, friends, or strangers? When we talk about climate change and global warming, what language is most effective? Science jargon? Business? "Layman's" terms?

When it comes the issue of global warming, it's imperative that the message is clear.

The Sightline Institute has been running a project entitled "Flashcards", designed to showcase effective communication tools using values-based strategies. In this post, I'll try to capture some key takeaways.
  1. Communicating the Science of Climate Change (Somerville & Hassol)
    1. Focus on what we know - Stop leading with caveats and disclaimers
    2. Start with the bottom line, then provide the details. 
    3. Use plain language that communicates the message you want
      1. "Theory" sounds like a 'hunch' or 'speculation': "Scientific understanding"
  2. A Guide for Engaging and Winning on Climate Change and Energy in America (Breakthrough Strategies and Solutions LLC.)
    1. Threat: Talk about extreme weather and protecting our kids: Value of Responsibility
    2. Solutions: Talk about American ingenuity: Value of Patriotic Pride
    3. Villains: Talk about fossil fuel stranglehold on government: Value of Accountability
  3. Two Rules for talking about Climate Change
    1. Talk about it. People love to talk about the weather. Not acknowledging climate change is irresponsible. 
    2. Keep it simple.
  4. Climate Change in the American Mind (Leiserowitz, Yale & George Mason University)
    1. There's also a great video to watch here: Bill Moyer's interview with Anthony Leiserowitz
    2. Identifying the audience (Six Americas)
      1. The Alarmed - 16%
      2. The Concerned - 29%
      3. The Cautious - 25%
      4. The Disengaged - 8%
      5. The Doubtful - 13%
      6. The Dismissive - 8%
    3. Simple message and make it personal(to your specific audience)
      1. Climate change is happening, and it's a big deal.
      2. It's personal - not partisan.
      3. There's hope!
  5. A Public Health Frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change(Nisbet, Maibach, et. al.)
    1. Comparative study of three frameworks:
      1. Environmental consequences - "Do it for the planet!"
      2. National security - "Fossil fuels = war!"
      3. Public health - "Keep our families safe!"
        1. Most likely to elicit emotional reactions with support for climate change mitigation and action
        2. Connects on a personal level

Now that we've been given some useful frameworks and tools around the language of global warming, let's use them.



Jill Bamburg, part of BGI's core faculty team, led a fascinating discussion around strategy at our final intensive of the year. The June 2013 issue of the Harvard Business Review ignited the conversation as they published three articles oriented around the evolving world of strategy.

  • Transient Advantage: Achieving a sustainable competitive edge is nearly impossible these days A Playbook for strategy in a high velocity world
  • What Is the Theory of Your Firm: Focus less on competitive advantage and more on growth that creates value
  • The New Dynamics of Competition: An emerging science for modeling strategic moves
As technology has moved from waterfall implementation to MVP and Agile processes, companies that are most nimble are the ones succeeding. What sort of implications does this have for strategy? The argument is that as business evolves, so must strategy. 

I hold that perspective that good strategy includes evolution. I also appreciate my classmate Emily Kanter's stance on growth, and recognizing the cyclical nature of the world, also appreciates how businesses can exit the marketplace(Also a shout-out to Cameron Miller "To grow or not to grow"). In the HBR article "What is the Theory of Your Firm", they capture this concept well:
...To make matters worse, attempts to grow often undermine a company’s current market position. As Michael Porter, the leading proponent of strategy as positioning, has argued, “Efforts to grow blur uniqueness, create compromises, reduce fit, and ultimately undermine competitive advantage. In fact, the growth imperative is hazardous to strategy.” Quite simply, the logic of this perspective not only provides little guidance about how to sustain value creation but also discourages growth that might in any way move a company away from its current strategic position...
Aside from changing paradigms around growth strategies, this point illustrates to me how effective our old theories can be. Porter's theories around competition and strategy evolved around the concepts that "Zero-sum is ho-hum" and effective strategy requires working with uncertainty. To me this speaks to our conversation around Purpose in Business. 

John Boyd's OODA loop theory on strategy truly captures working within a dynamic environment. Moving quickly through this loop is essential to learning, and ultimately, surviving. Their are some powerful parallels between this theory on strategy, and how we move through our own lives. Boyd comes from a military background, where strategy in war truly determines the impact on human lives. Even the new theories on startup strategy, with Eric Ries and the lean startup embraces the OODA loop. The purpose of the minimum viable product(MVP) is primarily in moving through the loop quickly.

Good strategy lasts through the ages, whether it's Sun Tzu's Art of War or Musashi's Book of Five Rings, it comes down to the application of strategy.

What variables affect the application of strategy?

The largest barrier that I have seen, and which also resurfaced during our conversation, is the effective application of strategy in super-sized organizations. The bigger the ship, the harder it is to turn. This isn't an argument against growth or large organizations, it's simply the acknowledgment that more challenges around adaptability arise the larger an organization is. I wonder what implications organizational design theory has around this. Can we use fractal design processes to allow all elements of an organization change at once? What about biomimicry? There are countless examples of a cluster of organisms dynamically shifting together. Schools of fish that can turn on a dime, or insects who lead from the rear.

What opportunities do we have to allow effective application of strategy?

Patent Trolls or Goals?

"Congress shall have power...To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." - United States Constitution: Article 1.8.8.

How do we track how well we are "promoting progress" in the United States? How do we measure innovation? I might suggest that tracking patents could be a great measure of innovation. Unfortunately, patent law and the politics surrounding it are a mess right now. The White House just published a fascinating piece entitled "Taking on Patent Trolls to Protect American Innovation". They analyze the impacts of patent litigation on the economy and on innovation. Over the past 10 years, as technology has exploded(for better or worse), so have patent filings. In fact, the number of patent cases filed over the past decade has doubled, from around 2500 to 5000 since 2003. Impressively, "patent trolls" account for over 3000 of these cases, much more than the couple hundred they were 10 years ago.

Coincidentally(maybe?), This American Life broadcast a part-two on their story on patent trolls. Fascinating, as Intellectual Ventures - the local (Bellevue) company - is the star of the story, as well as a major player in the study shared by the White House.

I encourage everyone to hear Intellectual Ventures perspective as well, and draw your own conclusions. They have three pertinent articles:
I agree wholeheartedly that our current system of patent law is flawed, and that massive amounts of litigation don't inspire innovation. For me, it hinges upon intention. Are we rewarding innovation or just trying to make a buck?

Coming from the perspective of positive psychology, I offer a reframe to the discussion. How do we(as a society) go back to square one and "promote the progress of science and useful arts"? The top line in the White House's patent report executive summary says, "Some firms that own patents but do not make products with them play an important role in U.S. innovation ecosystem, for example by connecting manufacturers with inventors, thereby allowing inventors to focus on what they do best". 

What practices can we implement to encourage this type of behavior?

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