Posts Tagged ‘Transformation’

Transformational Leadership – The Framework*

October 20th

There is growing interest in how to lead transformational change.   Many people – from those in positions of formal authority to non-traditional players who are being given access to key decision-making and granted a seat at the table by emerging technologies – are increasingly interested in knowing how successful transformation works.

In part, this is because organizations in both the public and private sectors are being confronted by imperatives to change that have been driven by technology, financial crises, resource constraints and new conditions that are forcing them to address issues such as,

  • How do we change the services we deliver to our customers?
  • How should we change the business model of our organization? and
  • How do we change while retaining our essential character?

My work with leaders who are facing these questions reveals that there are seven basic elements that are present in every successful transformation – elements that are illustrated by fundamental questions that must be answered:

  • Why change?
  • Who is going to be involved in planning, executing and sustaining the transformation?
  • When to launch?
  • Where is the change going to lead?
  • How should the journey be structured to achieve creative balance?
  • …To be imlementated dynamically? and
  • …To sustain the gain?

Addressing these seven questions will be aided by building your own playbook and using it to create a gameplan that fits your context . Your playbook needs to address:

The two preliminaries:

  • Why change?
  • Who leads?  and

The five elements of transformation:

  • Timing
  • Innovation
  • Strategy
  • Implementation, and
  • Sustainability

This is the framework.  Effective transformation strategy will address each of these classic themes.

What makes this interesting today is that we have reached one of the great inflection points in history when new voices and new players have been empowered by technology change and are making the dynamics of transformation come alive.  Looking at the framework, some old hands will be tempted to say that they have seen it before.  After all, the essential elements of transformation have a timeless quality.  But historically, future directions were defined top down.  Since Ancient Greece, strategy has been the work of generals.  This this is in the process of changing.

If the moral of this story were “adapt to technology” there would be little news here.  This has been a common theme for nearly 20 years since the Internet became a mainstream communications channel.  But today, interactive technology and transparent enterprise are writing new rules for future leaders forcing traditional leadership to adjust to the force of the new players.  The dynamics of organizations in every sector of the economy are being changed.

Some will need to react and democratize their enterprise as quickly as possible; others have more time to choose their future path.  But everyone needs to understand the implications of the forces that are democratizing transformation.


* Preparing to teach seven classes on Transformational Leadership at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, it became valuable to create a brief summary of the framework for the discussion.  Some of the discussion here has appeared in different forms in this blog and in the Working Papers on this Transformation Strategy site. Much of it is new.

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The Leader’s Guide to Transformation

January 29th

IBM’s Center for the Business of Government this week published my Leader”s Guide to Transformation.  In doing so the Center demonstrated the value of communicating in multiple media simultaneously.  They also included the discussion of transformation in their blog and an article about the Leader’s Guide in their magazine.  On February 2nd there will be a discussion of the guide on their radio show.

For me personally the most interesting thing that is likely to emerge from this prodigious output will be to see whether the subject engages the interest of an audience.  What often happens in cases like this one is that high visibility initiatives (Transformation of the Army, Transformation of the USPS) consume all of the oxygen in a debate.  When the smart people call them a cliche they become a dead zone of discussion and even if there is nothing to replace them conceptually they become a subject to be avoided.   Here, in interview after interview I talked to the leaders of initiatives who told me that they had no “new” word, that the concept of transformation was an important one to them.  So the question becomes: even if it isn’t news is it valuable to seek to learn what did the leaders of effective transformation efforts find to be most important?

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Postal Reform 2

May 17th

What has become clear in the recent debate over financial crisis at the Postal Service is that there will be another round of debate over reform.  Round 1 began 1995 when Marvin Runyon confronted the new Republican Congress that had begun to talk about privatization almost from Election Day 1994.  There was also talk of new deals in which the revenue stream of the USPS would be tapped to pay for budget priorities.  A need for reform was clear.  But the debate lasted from 1995 through 2006 when the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) was finally passed and signed into law.

In 2011, as a new Republican Congress has begun to review the financial crisis that is pending for the Service, there will again be a new debate that seeks to reform the USPS.

But as the debate emerges, inevitably there will be a question about Round 1.  What was learned from experience with PAEA?  How well did it serve the needs of the USPS?

In 2007 after the first law was passed, I wrote a paper for an international conference sponsored by the Rutgers Center for Research in Regulated Industries.  My co authors were Larry Buc and Pierce Myers, an economist and a lawyer who were as knowledgeable as any professionals working in the postal and delivery industries.  We asked “how should the new law be evaluated?”  As the Postal Reform Debate 2 began to emerge Larry Buc and I wrote another paper for the Eastern Conference of CRRI.  (Click on “paper” to see our 2011 paper.)

We reexamined the criteria from the 2007 paper and concluded that the emerging debate was going to miss the underlying question – what kind of a law will be needed to make the USPS a viable institution in the 21st Century?

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Gates on Sustainability

February 26th

This is a haunting talk at TED earlier this month by Bill Gates on Sustainability. In the best tradition of a talk by someone who wanted to share something that they had been thinking about, except that this is Bill Gates – not just your average speaker.

I watched this and was astonished that I/we could be slowed even a step by the resurgent denial school who want to push aside the thought that we are building a debt related to CO2 that we must address.

Then Gates on nuclear power brought back thoughts of Marble Hill Indiana when I took a swing at nuclear power and learned how to spell passionate political opposition.

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Testimony on Capitol HIll

November 5th

Today I testified on revenue generating opportunities and the future of the U.S. Postal Service before the Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee that is concerned with the Postal Service.  See Testimony PDF

Overall, my argument was that the Postal Service and the mailing community can become a source of innovation that is an engine for creating new postal revenue through the creation of  public private partnerships.

To make the Postal Service viable will require making mail relevant to future customers.  This will mean connecting hard copy mail with the Internet so that it can play a key role in a multichannel marketplace.

But the new revenue for the public postal service is not going to come from making the USPS into an Internet services provider.  If that was ever an option, its time to say “that was then, this is now.”  Fortunately there are a number key opportunities for the USPS to create new revenue and new mail by creating partnerships with private firms. I describe three broad concepts – Enabling the Last Mile, Extending Democracy’s Reach and Promoting Green Routes.

Some highlights include:

By enabling the last mile I refer to the many opportunities that exist for putting technology in the hands of the Letter Carrier, in other words, on the doorstep of the mailing consumer.  One of the areas of greatest interest to mailers has been wanting to know where their mail is while its on route to its destination.  The USPS has been seen as a black hole compared with FedEx and UPS who have invested billions of dollars to enable their higher end services to “track and trace” and much more.

In addition, I argue that

A second broad theme that Chairman Ruth Goldway in particular has championed has been Vote by Mail.  The Postal Service can do this and provide many other government services as well.

Third, there are opportunities for the Postal Service to again serve the nation by carrying parcels that today cause three and four trucks to travel the same route.  We can reduce carbon emissions by creating Green Postal Routes.

What is needed is to create a pathway that connects the challenged Postal Service of today with a viable business model of the future.  The broad framework should be a public policy framework that encourages public private partnerships as the postal reform law of (’06) and the President’s Commission on the Postal Service (’03) proposed.

The details of new services to customers will depend on the trials and tests and an innovation platform that has yet to be invented.

The coming years could be an exciting time of transformation or they could be a train wreck.  The difference will be whether there is clear public policy guidance that can define the creative balance between what should be public and postal and what should be a public private partnership.

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Radical Transparency

September 10th

Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence and other related works, has written a new book Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything. He wrote about his ideas in a Harvard Business Review blog (“Winning in an Age of Radical Transparency” May 27) on the dynamics of the competitive marketplace in coming years.   Given the new transparency that is made possible by technology Goleman argues, everything will change.

The theory, Goleman notes, is that the more transparent a market the healthier it will be.  Giving customers the benefits of social welfare, holding back prices, enforcing consumer protections with competitive services and growing a more concerned and aware consumer constituency for the products that they purchase – all of these are the benefits of the open market and information symmetry.

In seeking to remedy the ills that lead to the financial crisis, there has been a great deal of discussions of using transparency to facilitate the self-regulation that was missing leading to the market crash.  When President Obama took office, he asserted that his administration would use transparency to improve the ethics of government and the performance of programs.  Government-wide there is more access to the inner workings of federal program expenditures and acquisition in ways that has never been possible in the past.

In his new book, Goleman explores the implication for consumer markets of the parallel between transparency in financial regulation and revealing the ecological impacts of consumer goods.  “There are signs of a trend toward greater marketplace openness about the environmental and health consequences of products.”  He notes that the launch this year of is a significant departure in giving consumers inside information.

Goleman envisions a world of radical transparency in which Life Cycle Assessments are not only available to consumers but are required of future companies.   As secrecy is rendered ineffective by such trends as the obligation to publish the contents of the product, the competitive advantage that could have been gained from surprise will be lost.  Competitors will find it far easier to benchmark the high performing enterprise in their markets.  They can accelerate their movement to the high performance frontier and take away any performance related competitive advantages that their competitors might have enjoyed.

Quoting from Andy Grove’s book, Only Paranoids Survive Goleman notes “When Intel faced its first Valley of Death — the drying up of its market for chips — the company survived because it had a ready alternative: a small microprocessor business it had built on the side.”  The examples of Intel suggest a lesson for companies today, “companies would be prudent to have a strategy ready for an era of radical transparency.” Goleman argues.   “Remember, revolutions that seemed impossible will, in retrospect, seem inevitable.”

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Transparency: The Game Is Afoot

August 22nd

The Washington Post (Ed O’Keefe) reported that the Obama Administration took another step to give reality to its transparency policy.  The Administration continues to spend the money (nearly a trillion dollars) that was authorized in the stimulus bill.  Officials publish press releases and hold events to announce that they are spending the money on worthy causes.  They know how to do this; everyone who has served in government knows the routine.

But at the same time that this has been going on, plans have been moving forward to create transparency about what the money buys.  This means that at the same time that people in Washington are announcing that they are spending money, the grant recipients are going to publish – through the new technology of our time – where the money is going.  As O’Keefe reports, “a government Web site began accepting the spending and jobs data from grant recipients that will provide the first fact-based progress report about the economic recovery efforts.”

By mid-October the plan is for the data that is now being reported is going to be public.  This was the President’s promise.  Citizens will be able to know where every dollar went and what happened after it was spent.  But will they?  The concept is easier to describe than to imagine exactly what will happen.  “This is a game changer”, said one of the professional’s in this field, Donald F. Kettl, Dean of the public policy school of the University of Maryland.  The concept is that anyone will be able to go to and look up what happened to a specific grant.

So this raises a question or two.  The technology now makes this concept very doable.  The technical part, based on registering at a web site, creating data feeds and syndicating data to be collected by others, this is all pretty routine.  But its not routine at all for those who are the recipients of grants to will have to report what they are doing, to assess the results, to report it publicly and to deal with what happens next.  Dean Kettl candidly acknowledges that no one knows what will happen.

Each of the stages will be a challenge.  Knowing that you have to report, learning how to report the data – that will be a challenge for some.  Then knowing whether the reporting is accurate and if it is, what it means will be the most interesting part of the process.  Are the things that are being purchased with the money producing results?  Are the results worthy ones?

One debate that will most certainly come will be over whether the stimulus spending created jobs.  But jobs are only one of the goals of many of the programs.  And even if jobs are created, some will no doubt point out that they weren’t green jobs.  This may be one of the most trying challenges of all.  Will the world be mature enough to examine the extraordinary new data sources that is going to generate by the Gigabyte without demagoguery?

There might have been some suspicion that in spite the novelty of this new reporting system where the public will see the inner workings of government spending for the first time, it could be dreadfully boring.  What if no one comes to the party?  At this point, given the range of new sites and sourcing of information that has already been created, just the reverse seems likely.  Stay tuned.  This could become interesting.

The O’Keefe article from the Washington Post 8 21 09

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Calling the Turn

August 20th

The financial crisis of 2008 raised the question of whether we are facing a turn, resetting to a new normal or pausing before the resumption of growth. Knowing where you are is critical. Those who bet on future growth that doesn’t materialize will lose the race and even bankrupt themselves. But those who bet on decline when they are only seeing a pause will stagnate and they too will lose.

What’s hard to see from the outside is the way that the stakeholders will work overtime to assert that the curves are heading up. Vested interest is so powerful that they will honestly believe that the Sun is the Moon.

Great leaders will have the courage to call the turn.

Listening to Jim Collins talk about his new book How the Mighty Fall, in which he traces the five stages of ascendancy and decline, you can see that this is is going to be one of the enduring questions of our time.

The experience of living through the worst financial decline in 80 years and not being sure of what you saw will be an framing memory that will structure our perceptions.  The fear of imminent decline will cast a long shadow into the future.s

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