Leading the change ahead: Begin where you are

Radical change is clearly ahead.  In the words of a WBCSD task force comprised of the largest businesses in the world "Business-as-usual cannot get us to sustainability or secure economic and social prosperity. These can be achieved only through radical change, starting now."  They went on to articulate exactly what needs to change.  But the question that comes up again and again in the dialogues I co-convene on this topic is "How?"  How to get product advances more heavily used?  How to get technology advances more effectively commercialized?  And the trickiest of all -- how to get people and organizations to change?  I may have found a piece of the answer.


Andy Billings, a VP at Electronic Arts and an innovation manager I admire, let me know he was doing a workshop in April for the purpose of strengthening change leaders like you.  Interested, I picked up a book he co-authored a few years back to learn a bit about his approach.  Big Change at Best Buy seems perhaps an unlikely title for a book for the sustainability business community, but the subtitle is telling: Working through hypergrowth to sustained excellence.  Sounds to me like a summation of our challenge for the 21st century.  The more I read, the more I thought so.


Big Change opens with statements like:

            When hypergrowth occurs, a [company] must face the possibility of making radical changes to adapt to its new size and needs.  To succeed, the [company] must transform its culture and its processes into those that will be able to face the future sucessfully.  Leaders must be aware of the conflict this creates with the "old" culture that fueled the growth.  The shadow side of the old culture is its resistance to the new culture.  The greater the [company's] initial success, the stronger the culture and the darker its shadow.

Sound familiar?


What were the secrets to this transformative success story at Best Buy?   Several things. In addition to classic change management structures, Andy and his colleagues deeply engaged in the Head-Heart-Hands principle.  Yes, evolving the business of [selling discounted electronics / enter your business here] is a mental-emotional-physical whole-human change-and-engagement process.  Another secret was the development of a dynamic Change Scorecard, which actually measured and structurally incented necessary behavioral change.  To tool the change-makers and maximize their success, the process itself involved investing in its champions -- developing and propagating their leadership skills and moving them ahead in their effectiveness, their influence and their careers.


Finally and perhaps most importantly, the change agents at Best Buy were urged to begin this deep and transformative process -- a process which changed themselves and inspired an industry -- precisely from where they were.   Through a well-crafted report-from-the-future (a classic and always stirring tool for positive change),  Andy and his colleagues named the organization's present and real qualities which, once re-directed, would provide the foundation for the organization's great change.  And they named all of the current players as having been key implementors of the eventual and large-scale success. 


So the answer?  The evolution from hypergrowth to sustained excellence is a mental-emotional-physical process, which changes and measures its behavior, which develops its leaders for future success, and which begins -- right from where you are.

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Sue Lebeck 

  Cool Block Platform Director

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