The most powerful formula for creating long-term, high-impact organisational change

Screen shot 2014-11-02 at 12.01.08Another management article supports the need for The Churning. This one comes from the McKinsey Quarterly in March 2014.

Its authors state:

“After years [working in]… leadership and cultural transformation, we’ve become convinced that organizational change is inseparable from individual change. Simply put, change efforts often falter because individuals overlook the need to make fundamental changes in themselves… Organizations don’t change — people do.

To create a lasting organisational impact:

“Look both inward and outwards… Integration of looking both inward and outward is the most powerful formula we know for creating long-term, high-impact organizational change.”

This is the approach taken by Inner Leadership: start by increasing the self-awareness of the leader and their ability to put that into practice. Then align each person with the organisation, and vice-versa.

Unfortunately, I find the McKinsey approach how to make the inner change happen overly-analytical, slow, and short on practical implementation. The authors recommend developing ‘profile awareness’ and ‘state awareness’ and offer four ways this can then become part of organisational change. But their recommendations do not join up. There is too much focus on analysis and not enough on getting to results.

But inner leadership is the new frontier.

If you are interested in more detail, I have provided a short and a more extensive review below.


The authors have done what good consultants tend to do, which is find a way to map and analyse what is going on. The extent of their vision, however, is then to recommend that leaders learn to think like them. They come up short on taking the next step, which is how to put that thinking into action.

The Churning’s approach is much more practical and results-oriented. The material covered in the McKinsey Quarterly article (‘profile awareness’ and ‘state awareness’) is covered in Chapters 1 and 2 of The Churning, where the approach is more about helping leaders to make their own sense of the situation rather than telling them what to think.

The Churning then moves forward step by step with an integrated set of tools aimed at enabling the leaders to build a strong sense of what they want instead (an inspiring vision), and then integrating that with the tools for outer leadership necessary to make the vision happen.

The Churning’s approach is aimed at enabling leaders to become more capable versions of themselves, rather than teaching them to become like consultants.

More Detailed Review:

In the McKinsey Quarterly article, called “Change leader, change thyself“, the authors first recommend that leaders should learn to develop their ‘profile awareness’ and ‘state awareness’. They then offer four ways in which this can become part of organisational change.

The first step is to develop profile awareness, of your own “habits of thought, emotions, hopes, and behavior in various circumstances”. Examples are, “I’m an overachiever” or “I’m a control freak”, “I always fear the worst” or “you can’t trust anyone.” Leaders, they say, should then learn to identify and draw on four alternative archetypes of leadership: the “Inspirational Dreamer, Analytical Thinker, Emotional Lover, and Practical Warrior.”

This approach seems a little slow. What if the organisation is in crisis and needs action now? And all that the recommended methodology achieves is to replace one set of labels (“overachiever”, “control freak”, etc) with another set of labels (‘Inspirational Dreamer’ and so on). This doesn’t help the leader change.

What The Churning suggests instead is to skip the labels and enable leaders get in direct contact with themselves. Learn to centre and ground themselves whenever necessary. Then develop a regular ongoing practice to bring each leader in deeper connection with themselves. This is Chapter 1, and it has the advantage of bringing nearly-instant benefits, and can be developed over time.

Method two in the McKinsey article is to develop what the authors call ‘state awareness’. Learn to recognise “what’s driving you at the moment you take action”, as well as your potential “tendency to exhibit negative behavior under pressure.”

We agree this important. But the way The Churning goes about this is to provide a specific tool (in Chapter 2) that enables you to identify any misinterpretations or ‘mis-blinks’ that might arise in a situation and then identify your own alternative interpretations, choose whichever you feel is most appropriate, and move directly to action. Again, The Churning approach is fast and practical. There’s no need to say that your approach (or the consultant’s approach) is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. There’s just a personal development approach of thinking it through for yourself, and doing so more thoroughly than you might have done before.

The third part of the authors’ approach is to “translate [your new] awareness into organisational change.” Unfortunately they don’t really say how to achieve this. They give one example of how corporate culture stifled change, but they don’t show how the insights gained in the first two steps had any impact on this. The steps seem unconnected.

The Churning on the other hand offers an integrated approach. Build a focus around whatever ‘crisis’ the leader is facing now. Make sense of the situation and identify alternative opportunities. Pick the outcome you want to create, and build an inspiring vision that leads you towards that. Then move to action.

The fourth step of the McKinsey approach is to “start with one change catalyst… or a small group of trailblazers.” The example given is that of the four minute mile: for years it was thought impossible to run a mile in under four minutes, but as soon as Roger Bannister achieved that, suddenly lots of other people were able to run it too.

This makes sense. But if the aim, as the authors say, is for organisations to “unleash the full potential of individuals”, then why undermine that by holding back? Why start with a single catalyst or small group when it is possible to unleash the full potential of individuals. The aim, surely, it to unleash several people to achieve different things, according to their own specific skills and personality: not to enable everyone to run a four-minute mile. Organisations are filled with pole-vaulters and sprinters, shot-putters and swimmers, not just mid-distance runners, and we want the organisation to benefit from everyone achieving their own potential.

The Churning’s approach enables any leader in an organisation to take action in line with their deeper purpose. (The net purpose of the organisation is the combined purposes of all the leaders.) The Churning enables each leader to find their own inner vision for the area of the business they are responsible for and motivate their people to join them.

I do agree with the McKinsey Quarterly on the importance of need achieving both inner and outer change. But I think The Churning offers a faster and more integrated approach.

Turning leaders into consultants is not the answer. There needs to be a focus on a joined-up process to shift from inner understanding to inner action, and then to outer understanding and outer action.

The title of the McKinsey Quarterly article was “Change leader, change thyself“. Perhaps the consultants would do well to apply this to themselves.

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