Getting Change Right

Posted in leadership on April 28, 2010 by Seth Kahan

Visit the new site at with links to go beyond the book into organizational change management, effective leadership communication, executive leadership programs, and more.

I spoke yesterday  morning to the Defense Leadership Summit.  They purchased an advance shipment of 300 copies of my book to hand out to participants.  Books will be available to the public on May 17.  As part of my materials, I distributed Getting Change Right Syllabus.

This blog will now be discontinued. All Getting Change Right activity takes place at If you subscribed to this blog, your name will automatically be added to my Getting Change Right newsletter.


Managing Change

Posted in leadership on April 16, 2010 by Seth Kahan

Business transformation goes beyond strategic planning and project management, yet that is where many efforts stop short or fail. They do a good job of laying out intentions. But, for a constantly shifting playing field you need people to drive the change, keeping their eye on the ball as they adapt to new circumstances.

Your drivers are your change leadership team, champions, and ambassadors.  Each of these has a different role, pushing the agenda forward. I detail who they are and how they work together in Chapter 3 of Getting Change Right.

You must effectively master the art of turning every supporter into a change agent who owns the way forward.  This requires new management and leadership competencies, built around knowing how to involve and spark enthusiasm in the right people appropriately and effectively. These are not the standard competencies taught in most programs, but those specifically geared to getting change right.

Organizational Change Management

Posted in leadership on April 15, 2010 by Seth Kahan

Organizational change management is tough work. There are many moving parts: personalities, politics, organizational restructuring, technical requirements, shifting environments, emerging opportunities, unplanned crises, and all this in a tangle of information overload.

The master tool for cutting through this mess is the full-scale engagement of your Most Valuable Players (MVPs). These people are the powerful influencers who make widespread, sustained change a reality. Chapter 3 of Getting Change Right is dedicated to identifying and activating these players. In fact, the book is a manual for running a change initiative.

You absolutely can get your MVPs working together on multiple fronts to see change through. That’s what Getting Change Right is all about. I detail how. I chunk the primary activities into achievable tasks. For each there are templates, frameworks, and step-by-step instructions drawn from on-the-ground experience in real-life change.

Break Through Communication Barriers

Posted in leadership on April 14, 2010 by Seth Kahan

Communication barriers inhibit effective workplace communication, and must be addressed directly to realize the powerful results effective organizational communication can provide.

There are five chief barriers to good communication in most organIzations today. Here they are and what to do about each:

1. Your stakeholders have other priorities. This is the norm, to be expected. Of course, they have other things on their mind besides your interests.

SOLUTION: Call a special meeting to address their concerns. Bring in the people who matter most: their boss, critical partners, peers of influence, thought leaders in their field, customers, and members.

2. Your stakeholders do not see the value of listening to what you have to say.

SOLUTION: Bring them in to evaluate a critical decision you are facing. Make a thorough presentation that lays out the context, the options, and the dilemmas. Ask them to think both independently and together about the best way forward. Highlight win-wins as they appear. Take action based on their advice, and give them credit for their guidance.

3. The people you are trying to reach are distracted by constant stimulus from other sources, or they believe what you are doing is not worth their time and attention.

SOLUTION: Do something countercultural to catch attention. Take on the concerns and issues of those who show resistance and make them your cause célèbre, attracting public attention and support. This is an effective way to reverse hostility and join forces with those who would oppose you.

4. There is so much happening in the work environment that it is difficult to stand out.

SOLUTION: Stage a concentrated series of highly visible activities. In a very short period of time, appear to be everywhere at once. Contact your constituents during this campaign and ask them to help with the design, planning, presentation, or execution of your project. Give careful consideration to their contributions, incorporating what you can.

5. The people you must reach have someone else programming their time who is not a supporter.

SOLUTION: Go directly to the source of competing demands to win support. For example, call a meeting of all managers who supervise the people you want to engage and demonstrate the effectiveness of their subordinates. Connect their common self-interest to the objectives of your initiative.

In my book, Getting Change Right, Chapter 1, Creating Rapid, Widespread Engagement, deals in detail with the most powerful way to reach people, making contact by successfully penetrating the ongoing onslaught of information and competing demands from others.

Communication Styles

Posted in leadership on April 13, 2010 by Seth Kahan

The communication process is different for different people because they have different styles of interaction.  Communication importance is not shared by everyone. Some people value their ability to communicate more than others. To best understand workplace communication styles, consider those who value communication low, medium and high.

  • Low communication importance is the result of believing one operates independently and does not rely on effective interaction with others in order to carryout duties well.
  • Medium communication importance is found among people who know they must interact well with others, but do not see their skill at interaction as a core competence.
  • High communication importance results from an awareness of the value that is generated through interaction, and the belief that one’s personal skill in this area can make or break effective performance.  Among those who have very high communication importance, there is recognition that highly skilled communication is a direct enabler of excellence in performance.

Organizational communication, by necessity, works with people in all three areas. That is simply the result of variety among communication styles as it appears in any population.

People who lead change tend to fall in the last group, valuing communication highly.  Even if the capacity does not come naturally, change leaders recognize the necessity of developing their communication skill to achieve success.

To maximize impact, you have to know how to communicate effectively with people in all three categories. Here are some tips:

  1. When interacting with people who hold communication in low esteem, focus primarily on the benefits they stand to gain. Do not expect reciprocation, at least not verbally. They are apt to see themselves as disconnected, independent, detached from the rest of the system. This is not a flawed view, though it presents challenges. It is simply their perception.  Do not treat them as if they are broken. Instead, help them to recognize the value that comes from participation in the change program as it relates to their condition.
  2. Most people fall in the medium value range. Their communication skills come as a result of their need to collaborate and build consensus with their colleagues around critical issues. Their skillset gets the job done. You can expect full engagement with them, but they are not likely to be able to play hard and fast at innovation.

    They are capable of generating new ideas and can be a valuable source of input. But, their capacity to interact is limited when compared to those who have high value for communication. Providing them with structured interaction can yield high-performance results. In essence, you are giving them the tools they need to get to the next level of contribution.

  3. Those who have high regard for communication will come to you ready to play and play hard.  They are like musicians who are classically trained and enjoy jazz. They have their basics in solid working order and know how to improvise on a theme, and work with others to achieve synergy.  Take advantage of their expertise and invite them to participate in strategy design as well as tactical innovation.

For a more thorough treatment of how to generate engagement and buy-in, read my book, Getting Change Right. It’s all about the people side of change, including the best ways to communicate. It is filled with templates, instructions, and guides for creating the kind of engagement that leads to widespread buy-in and support.

Communicating Effectively

Posted in leadership on April 12, 2010 by Seth Kahan

Effective communication builds a common sense of meaning, a shared understanding. The most powerful influencers are those who generate ideas that travel through a population, and the travelling occurs mind-to-mind as people pass it on through interaction.

Each conversation generates more conversations, exciting others with possibilities, enrolling them in the cause, lighting the way to contribute, and inspiring action.

If you want your idea to spread, you need to become expert in three areas:

  1. Leading conversations that engage. These are interactions that weave people into your work, making them collaborators, co-creators of a shared future.
  2. Generating cascades of activity. Set off chain reactions of meetings and conversations that are carried from those who experience you firsthand out into their social networks.
  3. Conducting strategic engagement. Here you are like the conductor of an orchestra, only you are coordinating events instead of music. You adjust the timing, create emphasis, highlight virtuosos, provide critical.

To become a master of effective communication, you need to understand a little about communication styles, and how to break through the barriers to communication.

For more information on the best model of effective communication, refer to Getting Change Right, Chapter 1, Creating Rapid, Widespread Engagement.

“Getting Change Right” is a Course – Here is the Curriculum

Posted in leadership on April 7, 2010 by Seth Kahan

I have been asked by several agencies and a university to turn my book into a course they can deliver to help their managers and leaders get change right on a consistent basis.

The syllabus I use is a skeleton for action learning; i.e., it is delivered in parallel with a program that the organization’s leaders carry out, engaging their staff and stakeholders. This kind of learning puts the action where it is most useful. The student-leaders get real life experience and the course becomes more than a source of knowledge. It turns into a learning laboratory, supporting day-to-day operations.

Below is a high-level view of the syllabus, based on my book. You can download a copy of the syllabus here.

1. Creating Rapid, Widespread Engagement

  • Five ways to penetrate information overload
  • Five Techniques for Creating a Shared Stake in Success
  • Eight Conversations that Create the Future

2. Communicating so People Get It and Spread It

  • Five Questions that Trigger Professional Excitement
  • Interacting with Audiences of Different Sizes
  • Six Goals for Interactions with Others

3. Energizing Your Most Valuable Players

  • Fourteen Categories of Most Valuable Players (MVPs)
  • How to Activate and Equip MVPs for Success
  • Five Energizers for MVPs

4. Understanding the Territory of Change

  • Eight StoryListening Skills
  • Five Gems to Gather through StoryListening
  • Six Steps to Creating a Reconnaissance Report

5. Accelerating Change through Performance Communities

  • Three Dimensions of Successful Performance Communities
  • Three Ways to Balance Vertical and Horizontal Learning
  • Ten Ways to Build Performance Communities

6. Generating Dramatic Surges in Progress

  • Ten Guidelines for Creating Touchstone Events
  • Five Ways to Support Participants following a Touchstone Event
  • Eight Guidelines for Using Storytelling to Accelerate Growth

7. Breaking through Logjams

  • Four Requirements for a Successful Breakthrough
  • Six-Step Protocol for a Successful Breakthrough Session

8. WorkLifeSuccess in the Midst of Change

  • Four Ways to Defeat Stress
  • Seven Questions to Unearth Assumptions