organizational change

On Radical Edge

I just finished reading Radical Edge – Stoke Your Business, Amp Your Life, And Change The World – by Steve Farber.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “If you assume that you can learn from anyone—if you assume that you must learn from everyone—then everyone becomes a great teacher for you. Even if someone’s a slime-sucking scumbag of a leech they qualify for greatness if you can learn something from them.”

2- “Scan—just like you were a computer scanner. Your scanner just copies; it doesn’t comment, it doesn’t offer an opinion, it doesn’t tell you you’re stupid for time on that photo of the girl you met while v all were dancin’ on the bar at Jimmy Love’s. Just scan your environment and record what you see. Scan the bestseller lists and notice what people are reading; scan the magazine racks and pick up publications that don’t interest you—like, I dunno, The Tattoo Review or Graffiti Today, scan the weekly TV-show rankings; scan the headlines of the daily paper in 20 different cities; scan the room that you’re sitting in; scan the crowd as you’re toolin’ down the street during your lunch break. Then, every so often, write down what you’re seeing in your WUP. Write down your observations of subcultures that are entirely alien to you and trends in the tastes of the popular culture. Capture little idea-snapshots of natural, political, and social phenomena. Scan, scan, scan. Look at everything going on around you and write your observations in the pad…After collecting your observations for a while you stop, read it over, and give it some reflection. What are the implications of this? What can I earn from that? Why are so many people doing X, and what might that mean for all of us?…Talk About it…With everyone…Or everyone that matters, anyway. Talk about your observations and ideas with your team, for example. ‘Here’s what- I’m noticin’. What are you seeing?’ That kind of thing. Just kick it around and see where the discussion takes you—see what happens over time.”

3- “When inspiration strikes, when a new bona fide really great idea presents itself…You have to do it; that’s number six. That’s when the talking comes to a screeching halt and audacious action takes over. Kelleher and King went from idea to Southwest’s first route map on the back of that napkin. In other words. my man, I am expecting you to stick your neck out and try something new in your business. Got it?”

4- “This is how you stoke the fires of your success, Cam: by doing what you love in the service of people you love, who in turn, love what you do for them…I may not have the capacity to love everyone, but I certainly do have the capacity to act as though I do and to run my business accordingly. And if I and my team can really do that, then no other business in my market space can come close to the experience that we give our customers.”

5- “So, instead, she treats every customer encounter as an exercise in fascination.”

6- “”Your business, your personal life, and your effect on the world,” she said. “When you’re hitting on those three cylinders simultaneously, you’ve achieved The Radical Edge and life takes on an entirely new level of meaning.”

7- “If you really want to stoke your business till it burns so bright that everyone will take notice, there are two things you must be with complete abandon…One: be deeply fascinated by the life of every person—customer, employee, colleague—your business touches; and two: be deeply grateful for who they are and what they do…It all starts with the heart, Cam. If you develop a sincere love for people, you’ll automatically be fascinated with and grateful for them. If you’re fascinated with them, you’ll discover how to add value to their lives; and if you’re genuinely grateful for their patronage, partnership, or friendship you’ll show them in ways that are sincere and meaningful. Those are the essential elements of a fabulously productive business relationship—or any relationship, for that matter.”

8- “That old saving, ‘it’s not personal; it’s business’ is just plain false. Business is personal, personal, personal,” she tapped three times on the linoleum table top for emphasis. “And,” she twinkled, “is there anything in the human experience more personal than love?”…I regarded that a rhetorical question. Love is your leverage,” Agnes said. “And if you’re observant, if you stay fascinated and grateful, love will hand you your competitive advantage on a solid gold platter.””

9- “We don’t consider ourselves to be naive or idealistical though others certainly may. We are pragmatists of the highest order: we believe there is nothing more eminently practical than looking at the world, asking ‘how can this be better?’ and then holding ourselves personally accountable for getting it done.”

10- “There are four change the-world guidelines that we’ve agreed on so far, but we’re always open to more, and I’m sure we’re missing more than a few things. Let me spell them out for you…The first is to define what you mean by ‘world,’ and get clear on how you want that world to be different from the current reality. ‘World’ doesn’t have to mean the very fabric of human existence, although it certainly could be. It could be the world of your customers, neighborhood, industry—or the world of one person, for that matter. You define it for yourself…Second guideline is…act as though our every action has a direct impact on the world. In other words, you should perform every deed as if it will either improve the world or damage it…Third…Don’t judge yourself based on the outcome of your efforts…Meaning you cannot ultimately control the end results. You do everything you can, you do your homework and your research, and you enlist the people you need to get the job done-whatever it is…What’s the last one?…Never-never, ever—try to do it alone.”

11- “But it’s not about finding your frequency by ruling out everything else on the contrary, it’s about finding the frequency that includes all those other important values and ideals. The very act of trying to wrap it all together is what’s really important, because to do that you have to get very clear on what you mean by each value and principle. You have to define, think through, and understand each to its core, and evaluate your life against each one. The clearer you get, the closer you get to the frequency that pulsates through your life and characterizes who you really are.”


Omar Halabieh

Radical Edge

On Leading Change

I recently finished reading Leading Change – Overcoming the Ideology of Comfort and the Tyranny of Custom by James O”Toole.

The aim of this book, as summarized best by the author, is to address three related questions: “1) What are the causes of resistance to change? 2) How can leaders effectively and morally overcome that resistance? 3) Why is the dominant philosophy of leadership, based on contingency theory neither an effective nor a moral guide for people who wish to lead change?”. The book addresses these questions through two parts. The first one focuses on the leaders, particularly on values-based leadership (so-called Rushmorean leadership). The second, on the followers with a focus on why people tend to resist change, and strategies to overcome that resistance.

What I particularly enjoyed about this book are the numerous reviews of other classics within these subject areas, which helps the reader further anchor the thoughts being introduced and how they are supported and/or are different from those introduced by the author. A recommended read in the areas of leadership and change!

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “In complex, democratic settings, effective leadership will entail the factors and dimensions of vision, trust, listening, authenticity, integrity, hope, and, especially, addressing the true needs of followers.”

2- “As Nelson Mandela understood, people will follow only leaders who take them where they want to go. Leaders thus beget followers, and they do so by allowing the followers to take the leader’s dream as their own. This can occur only when leaders acknowledge the legitimacy of followers’ competing beliefs and diverse values. Hence the overall conclusion from our inquiry: for leadership to be effective, it must be moral, and the sine qua non of morality is respect for people. (This is the concept of leadership we are calling Rushmorean).”

3- “In sum, Rushmorean leadership is not about voting; it is about the democratic value of inclusion. There is nothing oxymoronic, chaotic, or ineffective about leadership based on that moral principle.”

4- “What we will find is that people in organizations resist change advocated by their leaders for exactly the same reasons that the leaders of organizations resist change advocated by outsiders.”

5- “In general, the successful processes of change initiated…had the following things in common: 1) Change had top-management support. 2) Change built on the unique strengths and values of the corporation. 3) The specifics of change were not imposed from the top. 4) Change was holistic. 5) Change was planned. 6) Changes were made in the guts of the organization. 7) Change was approached from a stakeholder viewpoint. 8) Change became ongoing.”

6- “Here’s a sample of some of the most popular hypotheses: 1) Homeostasis, 2) Stare decisis. 3) Inertia. 4) Satisfaction. 5) Lack of ripeness. 6) Fear. 7) Self-interest. 8) Lack of self-confidence. 9) Future shock. 10) Futility. 11) Lack of knowledge. 12) Human nature. 13) Cynicism. 14) Perversity. 15) Individual genius versus group mediocrity. 16) Ego. 17) Short-term thinking. 18) Myopia. 19) Sleepwalking. 20) Snow blindness. 21) Collective fantasy. 22) Chauvnistic conditioning. 23) Fallacy of exception. 24) Ideology. 25) Institutionalism. 26) Natura non facit saltum. 27) The rectitude of the powerful. 28) “Change has no constituency.”. 29) Determinism. 30) Scientism. 31) Habit. 32) The despotism of custom. 33) Human mindlessness.”

7- “…The possession of the skill of overcoming resistance to change is what separates the mass of individuals with good ideas from the few leaders who are able to implement them.”

8- “Thus even though progressives may argue that change will not affect the power, prestige, and positions of the haves, the haves understand intuitively that in fact change must undermine their ideology, upset their belief system, and discomfit them greatly.”

9- “The current focus of leadership studies in business has a misplaced emphasis on helping haves (corporate leaders) overcome resistance among the have-lesses and have-nots in their organizations. As we see from the foregoing analysis…the far greater problem in overcoming resistance among the haves. In fact, it is progressives inside and outside corporations who face resistance from the people who have the most power to resist: the established leaders.”

10- “Conflict, tension, and turmoil are the order of the day – today and tomorrow. Thus, great leaders recognize that there is a never-ending struggle to balance the constant and never-abating demands of those with different objectives…Because it is not possible to ignore, nor to completely satisfy, the conflicting demands of all constituencies, leaders live in a state of perpetual tension. Poor leaders cannot tolerate this discomfiting posture, and they attempt to resolve the tension by either giving in to the demands of those who are most powerful, or by issuing a command that represents their own will. There is another way: the values-based leadership described in this book. At its core, the process of values-based leadership is the creation of moral symmetry among those competing values…Hence, the task is to lead through the process of design, composition, tension, balance, and harmony.”

11- “If one wishes to learn this particular art, the first piece that must be put into place is personal acknowledgment that no other form of leadership can be both moral and effective. Once a leader makes that difficult commitment, all the other pieces will eventually fall into place, bit by bit.”


Omar Halabieh

On Leading Change

On Only The Paranoid Survive

I recently finished reading Only The Paranoid Survive by Andrew S. Grove.

Below are excerpts from the book that summarize the key points presented by the author:

1- “Business success contains the seeds of its own destruction. The more successful you are, the more people want a chunk of your business and then another chunk and then another until there is nothing left. I believe that the prime responsibility of a manager is to guard constantly against other people’s attacks and to inculcate this guardian attitude in the people under his or her management.”

2- “We all need to expose ourselves to the winds of change. We need to expose ourselves to our customers, both the ones who are staying with us as well as those that we may lose by sticking to the past. We need to expose ourselves to lower-level employees, who, when encouraged, will tell us a lot that we need to know. We must invite comments even from people whose job it is to constantly evaluate us and critique us, such as journalist and members of the financial community. Turn the tables and ask them some questions: about competitors, trends in the industry and what they think we should be most concerned with. As we throw ourselves into raw action, our senses and instincts will rapidly be honed again.”

3- “A strategic inflection point is when the balance of forces shifts from the old structure, from the old ways of doing business and the old ways of competing, to the new. Before the strategic inflection point, the industry simply was more like the old. After it, it is more like the new. It is a point where the curve has subtly but profoundly changed, never to change back again.”

4- “Of all the changes in the forces of competition, the most difficult one to deal with is when one of the forces become so strong that it transforms the very essence of how business is conducted in an industry.”

5- “When an industry goes through a strategic inflection point, the practitioners of the old art may have trouble. On the other hand, the new landscape provides an opportunity for people, some of whom may not even be participants in the industry in question, to join and become part of the action.”

6- “When a strategic infection point sweeps through the industry, the more successful a participant was in the old industry structure, the more threatened it is by change and the more reluctant it is to adapt to it. Second, whereas the cost to enter a given industry in the face of well-entrenched participants can be very high, when the structure breaks, the cost to enter may become trivially small.”

7- “I suspect that the people coming in are probably no better managers or leaders than the people they are replacing. they have only one advantage…the new managers come unencumbered by such emotional involvement and therefore are capable of applying an impersonal logic to the situation.”

8- “As these questions to attempt to distinguish signal from noise: 1) Is your key competitor about to change? 2) Is your key complementor about to change? 3) Do people seem to be “losing it” around you?”

9- “I call the divergence between actions and statements strategic dissonance. It is one of the surest indications that a company is struggling with a strategic inflection point.”

10- “Ideally, the fear of a new environment sneaking up on us should keep us on our toes. Our sense of urgency should be aided by our judgement, instincts and observations that have been honed by decades spent in the business world. The fact is, because of our experience, very often we managers know that we need to do something. We even know what we should be doing. But we don’t trust our instincts or don’t act on them early enough to take advantage of the benign business bubble. We must discipline ourselves to overcome our tendency to do too little too late.”


Omar Halabieh

Only The Paranoid Survive

On The Age Of Unreason

I recently finished reading The Age of Unreason by Charles Handy.

As best described by the author: “The purpose of this book is to promote a better understanding of the changes which are already about us, in order that we may, as individuals or as a society, suffer less and profit more.Changes, after all, is only another word for growth, another synonym for learning. We can all do it, and enjoy it, if we want to. The story or argument of this book rests on three assumptions:

1) That the changes are different this time: they are discontinuous and not part of a pattern; such discontinuity happens from time to time in history, although it is confusing and disturbing, particularly to those in power.

2) that is is the little changes which can in fact make the biggest differences to our lives, even if these go unnoticed at the time, and that is is the changes in the way our work is organized which will make the biggest differences to the way we all will live; and

3) that discontinuous change requires discontinuous upside-down thinking to deal with it, even if both thinkers and thoughts appear absurd at first sight.”

The book covers the various aspects that these changes affect including professional (organizations where we work), personal, and government. The author’s main objective is: “If people start to think unreasonably  and try to shape their world the way they think it ought to be, then I shall be content.”

A very deep and insightful analysis of the world we are living in, and the necessary shift in the way we think and act within it. The breadth of areas covered in this book and its completeness are to be commended.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “It is best, I realized, to think of learning as a wheel divided into four parts: questions, theories, testing, and reflections. I describe it as a wheel to emphasize that it is meant to go round and round. One set of questions, duly answered and tested and reflected upon, leads on to another.”

2- “Learning is not just knowing the answers…It does not help you to change, or to grow, it does not move the wheel…Learning is not the same as study, nor the same as training…It is a cast of mind, a habit of life, a way of thinking about things, a way of growing…Learning is not automatic, it requires energy, thought, courage and support…Learning is not for the intellectuals, who often shine at the theorizing stage, but are incurious and unadventurous and therefore add little to their experience as they go through life. Learning is not finding out what other people already know, but is solving our own problems for our own purposes, by questioning, thinking and testing until the solution is part of our lives.”

3- “I am suggesting, on the basis of good evidence, that those who learn best and most, and change most comfortably, are those who a) take responsibility for themselves and for their future; b) have a clear view of what they want that future to be; c) want to make sure they get it; and d) believe they can.”

4- “…the organization of today is made up of three very different expectations, managed differently, paid differently, organized differently…The first leaf of the shamrock represents the core workers…these are the people who are essential to the organization. These are the people who are essential to the organization. Between them they own the organizational knowledge which distinguishes that organization from its counterparts…If the core is smaller, who then does the work? Increasingly, it is contracted out to organizations I call the second leaf of the shamrock…The third leaf of the shamrock is the flexible labor force, all those part-time workers and temporary workers who are the fastest growing part of the employment scene.”

5- “Alongside the emerging shamrock organization we can discern the gradual development of the federal organization…Federalism seeks to make it big by keeping it small, or at least independent, combining autonomy with cooperation. It is the method which businesses are slowly, and painfully, evolving for getting the best of both worlds – the size which gives them clout in the marketplace and in the financial centers, as well as some economies of scale, and the small unti size which gives them the flexibility which they need, as well as the sense of community for which individuals increasingly hanker.”

6- “The Japanese have a nice way of developing their high-potential young people. They actually have a fast-track route for them, but instead of it being a vertical fast-track up though the organization, it is a horizontal fast-track, a succession of different jobs, real jobs with tough standards to be met, but all at the same level. The advantages are that not only does the yound person get a wider view of the organization, he or she gets a chance to test our their talents and skills in a wide variety of roles.”

7- “The new formula for success, and for effectiveness is I3=AV, where I stands for Intelligence, Information, and Ideas, and AV means added value in cash or in kind.”

8- “The research made it clear that there is no optimal pattern for a marriage. All patterns are possible. It seems essential to have a joint understanding of what the pattern is, how and when it might change, what the consequences are for living in a certain patterns and what are the costs and benefits. People clearly can change their pattern and what are the costs and benefits. People  clearly can change their pattern if both parties want to. Separation and divorce often seem to occur because one partner wants to change the pattern and the other does not.”

9- “The upside-down school would make study more like work, based on real problems to be solved or real tasks to be done, in groups of mixed ages and different types of ability, all of them useful.”

10- “Inevitably, now, government will have increasingly to deal direct with individuals rather than with organizations, will have to rethink the categories it puts people into, and find some new ways to organize the collection and distribution of wealth if the organization cannot do it for them.”

11- “The Age of Unreason is inevitably going to be something of an exploration, but exploring is at the heart of learning, and of changing and of growing. This is what I believe, and this is what gives me hope.”


Omar Halabieh

The Age of Unreason

The Age of Unreason