... which take a practical, anecdotal or case-based perspective, rather than theoretical approach?   I have been working with a client team recently who would like to read more.  They say:

"...is there any reader-friendly literature that you’d recommend on this topic? Ideally I’d like practical insights and case studies about why/how organisations changed rather than academic theory."

I have recommended three books:


- Diary of a Change Agent, Tony Page 

- Edgar Schein's Organisational Culture and Leadership

Leadership for Sustainability (Marshall et al)

Your additional suggestions would be very welcome!

Thanks.

Penny

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Great question. Sorry I don't feel able to add to your list - I tend to look for ideas etc for me, rather than books for clients.

Ned

I'm really enjoying Tim Harford's book, Penny, Adapt: Why success always starts with failure.  

What do you like about it?

David McAra said:

I'm really enjoying Tim Harford's book, Penny, Adapt: Why success always starts with failure.  

Ah!  Good question, Penny.  

1.  The author is a systems thinker so his analysis has depth and the ring of truth.  

2.  He addresses the issue of most pressing interest for me, personally, which is the tendency of governing hierarchies to isolate themselves from reality and become incompetent (to our huge cost). 

3.  Perhaps I should express that appreciatively.  He emphasises the value of experimentation and feedback.  

4.  It encourages me that intelligent thinking is being articulated skilfully and read.  He provides a shred of hope amidst the horrors of Question Time, the Apprentice, the Today Programme, Prime Minister's Questions, the Daily Mail, etc. 

5.  It made me think and helped me reconsider some positions in which I may have been growing inflexible.  

Have you heard him on the radio?  Tends to be a bit light-hearted for my taste, given the scale of our challenges but I suppose that's better than being white-knuckled with rage.  More or Less

David

Thanks David - that does sound like a good read.  Yes, I listen to More or Less when I get a chance, I didn't make the link between them.

Does he also give a prescription for the change agent: how to breach the isolation or replace the incompetence?

Cheers

Penny

Now I'm sure you know better than to expect a prescription, Penny!  :-l  

Actually, he does make an effort:

1.  Try new things

2.  Try them in a context where failure is survivable

3.  Avoid the quirks which interfere with our response to failure, i.e.

3.1 Denial

3.2 Chasing our losses (instead of accepting them and letting them go)

3.3 "Hedonic editing" to convince ourselves that our mistake doesn't matter.  (Sounds like  a subtle form of denial to me.)  

None of this really helps us to reach those who are in denial about their isolation and incompetence.  I suppose we just have to work on our critical mass and our articulation of the challenge until, one by one, they recognise that the eccentrics on the fringes are actually talking sense (or, one by one, they die).  

Titration is the metaphor which sometimes sustains me, if you did secondary school chemistry.  One last drop of reagent and the whole solution turns pink.  

David

I love that titration image!  My own chemistry days are far in the past, but Daughter #2 has been revising for GCSEs this summer and we have learned together the mysteries of titration - how you need to do a rough one first, to get an idea of where the tipping point is, and then do a repeat where you watch carefully as you near that point, to observe it precisely.

P.

David, Penny,

Another perspective that may add to this discussion is from the world of strategy where some recent thinking is to argue that fixed goals are flawed. What is needed is a point of departure from which to set a direction of travel and adapt: i.e. set out looking for titration but remain aware of complicating factors and alternative explanations.

Ketan Patel sums this up well in his book "The Master Strategist":

e.g."There is no such thing as an absolute sense. Outcome is a transitory state and, as such is simply a milestone in a flow of events. Master strategists see the flow of event and influence the flow". 

So when working in a flow (a.k.a. a system) then there will be back currents, eddies, and changes of course: all demanding feedback loops if they are to be successfully navigated.

Thanks Roger, I hadn't come across Patel's work before.  This sounds a bit like what I've come across as 'emergent strategy', where you know your values / broad vision as an organisation, people know what their own skills and roles are and have lots of conversation so that they co-create their evolving understanding of all those things, and then respond to events and feedback spontaneously.  A bit like surfing or sailing. 

Roger James Niven said:

David, Penny,

Another perspective that may add to this discussion is from the world of strategy where some recent thinking is to argue that fixed goals are flawed. What is needed is a point of departure from which to set a direction of travel and adapt: i.e. set out looking for titration but remain aware of complicating factors and alternative explanations.

Ketan Patel sums this up well in his book "The Master Strategist":

e.g."There is no such thing as an absolute sense. Outcome is a transitory state and, as such is simply a milestone in a flow of events. Master strategists see the flow of event and influence the flow". 

So when working in a flow (a.k.a. a system) then there will be back currents, eddies, and changes of course: all demanding feedback loops if they are to be successfully navigated.

Spirited Business by Georgeanne Lamont

Thanks Sue.  What do you like so much about this book?



Sue Howard said:

Spirited Business by Georgeanne Lamont

Thanks for your question Penny.  Initially, it's got what you asked for - lots of practical examples.  On further reflection it's not so much about organisational change, as organisations which are changed by really valuing people holistically.  I think organisational change can be very soul destroying - this book is about creating soul-friendly workplaces and throws a curve ball into the traditional academic theoretical mix.  Not to everyone's taste no doubt, but important to consider.  Also I know Georgeanne and value what she does.  



Penny Walker said:

Thanks Sue.  What do you like so much about this book?



Sue Howard said:

Spirited Business by Georgeanne Lamont

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