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

Screen shot 2014-11-02 at 12.01.08I’ve come across another management article that 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.”

If you want to create lasting organisational impact, they say:

“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.”

I agree, and this is very much in line with The Churning.

Outer change, in their short article, is not discussed. This is fine — inner change is the new frontier.

Unfortunately, their article’s approach on how to make that inner change happen is overly-analytical, slow, and short on practical implementation. The authors recommend that leaders should develop ‘profile awareness’ and ‘state awareness’ and then offer four ways in which this can become part of organisational change. But to me their recommendations do not join up, and there is too much focus on analysis, not enough on getting to the results you want instead.

For anyone interested in more detail, I have provided a more extensive review below.

But if you want the short version, it seems to me that the authors have done what good consultants 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 surely all that is achieved by this methodology is to replace one set of labels (“overachiever”, “control freak”, etc) with another set of labels (‘Inspirational Dreamer’ and so on).

What The Churning suggests instead is to skip the labels and enable leaders get in direct contact with themselves. Learn to centre and ground whenever necessary. And then develop a regular ongoing practice to bring each leader in direct connection with themselves. This is Chapter 1.

This has the advantage of bringing near-instant benefits, and can also be developed over time.

Method two 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. 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. You can 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.

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 third one. 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 authors’ 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 achieve it, 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 (apparently) undermine that? Why not stick with that aim and find ways to make it happen, rather than assuming at the outset it is impossible and looking to begin with a single catalyst or small group? (And mightn’t selecting a small group in this way only serve to reinforce the sense in the remainder that they must wait to be ‘chosen’?)

Again, it’s all a bit bitty and unclear, but The Churning’s approach is more integrated.

The Churning’s approach enables any leader in the organisation to take action. It enables them to find their own inner vision for the area of the business they are responsible for, and motivate their people to join them. If the aim is to have every leader do this, then why not simply give them the tools they need to achieve it? (Rather than stopping at analysis of ‘profile awareness’ or ‘situation awareness’.)

I do agree with the McKinsey Quarterly on the need for 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.

Their chosen title for the McKinsey Quarterly article was “Change leader, change thyself“.

Perhaps this would do well to be applied to the consultants as much as to their clients.

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