Adapt to Change By Following These “Simple” Plans

With the recent passing of Spencer Johnson (1940-2017), a physician who authored the wildly popular and brief Who Moved My Cheese? (1998), it feels appropriate to present this book as well as two newer ones that advocate uncomplicated plans to help you adapt to change in the workplace and elsewhere.

I. Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer Johnson (1998)

A summary from Four Minute Books: “The book tells a parable about two little people and two mice in a maze, searching for cheese, where each character represents a different attitude towards change, with cheese being what we consider success.”

The most quoted line: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Other notable quotes from Who Moved My Cheese?

What you are afraid of is never as bad as what you imagine. The fear you let build up in your mind is worse than the situation that actually exists.

Change happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go.

Noticing small changes early helps you adapt to the bigger change that are to come.

II. Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders, Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston (2015)

Called “a perfect blend of ‘story’ and ‘lesson'” (Robert Kegan, Harvard University), Simple Habits for Complex Times is further described below by Christopher B. Nelson, HuffPost:

Berger and Johnston describe the rise in ambiguity (as well as complexity, volatility and uncertainty) in our workplaces and private lives — and they suggest an overall corporate transformation. They identify three habits of mind that move us toward a new paradigm: Ask different questions. Take multiple perspectives. And get a feel for the complex organism that is our workplace by learning to see systems.

A few thoughts/quotes from this book:

In a simpler world, perhaps unilateral power held by a single, smart, capable leader could rule the day. In a complex world…it takes a collective sharing of power, creativity, and perspectives to become agile and nuanced enough to lead into the uncertain future.

The point isn’t to be the hero and solve things; the point of the leader in a complex world is to enable and unleash as many heroes and as many solutions as possible.

The key lever in a complex system is learning; the key methods are conversation, discovery, and experimentation. In a complicated case, you have distinct times for diagnosing the problem, coming up with the solution, and then implementing that solution.

III. Domino: The Simplest Way to Inspire Change, Nick Tasler (2015)

From the publisher’s blurb about Nick Tasler’s two types of “approaches to leading change”:

…Disturbingly, Change by Addition is far less effective, but is used far more often. Until now. Luckily, Change by Decision is not only more effective it also requires less time and fewer resources—allowing ordinary managers to take their teams in exciting new directions.

If you like self-assessment quizzes, go to Tasler’s website and try out his Decision Styles Index. As he indicates on that page, “Change happens when decisions happen. Change stalls when decisions don’t happen. It really is that simple.”

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