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This blog is dedicated to exploring the challenges of leading, achieving and coping with change in today’s business and social environment.  

We hope to provoke thought, stimulate conversation, educate and even entertain you.  Please share and comment!

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#3 — Six Sigma’s Hidden Truths, Lessons Learned, and Potential Payoffs


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The Six Sigma Way, 2nd Ed

The following is an author excerpt from Pete Pande, “Introduction to the Second Edition, The Six Sigma Way“, recently published by McGraw-Hill.

 

 

To help you get the greatest possible benefit from Six Sigma, it is important to recognize some of the misunderstood truths about what it offers, how it works, and where its real value lies. The truths for the most part are constant; still, we include some “Lessons Learned” based on the much deeper experience of Six Sigma since 1999.

Hidden Truth #3

The potential gains from Six Sigma are equally or more significant in services and non-manufacturing activities as they are in production environments, and even greater when working across functions and processes.

You cannot apply Six Sigma quite the same way in sales as in manufacturing, but the fundamentals are the same, whether it is measuring performance, finding waste, or implementing a solution.

Lessons Learned: When leaders invest time, working as a team to identify and address key cross-functional opportunities, the outcomes are nearly always positive. By contrast, when Six Sigma is run by department-focused groups that are left to generate their own projects, the outcomes are usually disappointing. One of the biggest remaining upsides of Six Sigma still lies in greater leader and organization-wide ownership; it is much more often relegated over time to a department or group that works only on special projects, having to justify its existence every year.

The Payoff: You can get more mileage from your improvement investment if you look at your opportunities broadly and take on both the cross-functional issues and local problems that have the most impact on your profits and customers. Then it can be more easily linked to what is important to everyone and be integrated into common practice.

 

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#2 — Six Sigma’s Hidden Truths, Lessons Learned, and Potential Payoffs


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The Six Sigma Way, 2nd Ed

 

The following is an author excerpt from Pete Pande, “Introduction to the Second Edition, The Six Sigma Way“, recently published by McGraw-Hill.

 

To help you get the greatest possible benefit from Six Sigma, it is important to recognize some of the misunderstood truths about what it offers, how it works, and where its real value lies. The truths for the most part are constant; still, we include some “Lessons Learned” based on the much deeper experience of Six Sigma since 1999.

Hidden Truth #2

Look around and you will find many “Six Sigma Ways.”  Following a fixed prescription, hiring a consultant to tell you what to do, or mimicking another organization is guaranteed to fall short or fail.  You need to be guided by your own vision, goals, capabilities, and culture (or “cultures,” since most organizations are really a mix) and be prepared to learn and adapt.  In addition, the Six Sigma Way is not (or should not be) about solving only certain types of problems.  Because it is about thinking as much as tools, it can impact how you address many kinds of challenges.

Lessons Learned: Here, the story is much more positive than under Hidden Truth #1. Most organizations soon recognize that follow- ing a standard implementation model for Six Sigma does not work. Only those that have continued to adapt their approach over time have achieved the kinds of results they had hoped for. Persistence, it seems clear, has its rewards.

The Payoff: Building your own Six Sigma way can be a great learn- ing experience, yielding insights into how your business works, what good and bad habits govern your actions, where the biggest oppor- tunities for improvement lie, and how best to capitalize on those opportunities. If you are willing to continue on that Way, it is likely that the biggest benefits lie ahead of you.

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Six Sigma’s Hidden Truths, Lessons Learned, and Potential Payoffs


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The Six Sigma Way, 2nd Ed

 

The following is an author excerpt from Pete Pande, “Introduction to the Second Edition, The Six Sigma Way“, recently published by McGraw-Hill.

 

To help you get the greatest possible benefit from Six Sigma, it is important to recognize some of the misunderstood truths about what it offers, how it works, and where its real value lies. The truths for the most part are constant; still, we include some “Lessons Learned” based on the much deeper experience of Six Sigma since 1999.

Hidden Truth #1

Six Sigma encompasses a broad array of business concepts, best practices, and skills (some advanced, but a lot common sense) that are essential ingredients for making improvement and change work well. Where it has shown the most impressive and lasting results, Six Sigma thinking is really more important than the tools. When it is narrowly defined as “a quality program” or “a statistical approach,” the impact is sure to be limited.

Lessons Learned: Far too many organizations and training programs have continued to emphasize tools and projects and overlooked the fundamental Six Sigma dimension of asking the right questions. Learning tools and working on projects can only go so far, whereas asking questions and responding effectively can be applied every day.

The Payoff: By balancing the tools and projects with the proactive, creative thought processes that are core to Six Sigma, you will be able to apply it much more broadly and see the impact on not just formal problem solving, but also how people, from leaders to front-line, act and respond every day.

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Best-Selling Author Releases 2nd Edition of The Six Sigma Way


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NewsSm

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — January 31, 2014 — Pete Pande, President of Pivotal Resources, author and co-author of several popular books on business management, announced release of the Second Edition, The Six Sigma Way, published by McGraw-Hill.  The new edition retains everything from the original classic — what Six Sigma is, how it works, and how to adapt it to your particular needs — while providing valuable new sections on lessons learned and setting the record straight regarding myths and misunderstandings perpetuated over the years.

Upon its publication in 2000, The Six Sigma Way was among the very first books to clearly explain the benefits of Six Sigma’s improvement-driven and customer-centric approach to business leaders and managers.  It revealed how General Electric and other companies used Six Sigma to fine-tune products and processes, improve performance, reduce costs, build customer loyalty, and increase profits –while providing realistic advice to avoid Six Sigma “hype”.  Corporate leaders around the world heeded the call and began implementing the tools of the world-changing performance improvement.

In short, the first-edition changed the landscape of business and organization improvement forever — worldwide.  In fact, it has been translated into 16 languages.

Now, Pete Pande has revisited the subject to bring you fully up to date about how Lean Six Sigma has been used — for better and for worse — during the past 14 years.

This all-in-one-guide provides:

  • Practical Six Sigma implementation
  • New insights from managers who successfully applied the advice from the first edition
  • Detailed case studies from such companies as Adobe, Macy’s, and Starwood
  • Hands-on “maps” that guide you through key decisions you must make

Pete Pande comments:  “So much has happened since the first publication of The Six Sigma Way, and it has been rewarding to find that much of what was in the book then still holds true.  At the same time, the opportunity to reflect on how organizations have used, or misused, Six Sigma had offered a lot of new insights.  We’re pleased that this updated book will offer some real benefit to individuals and organizations still focused on driving continuous improvement today.“

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What is Leadership Success?


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Learn & Lead - Pivotal Resources Thought Leadership

One of the principles I sincerely hope you’ll take to heart from these pages is that real leadership success is best defined by the positive impact you make, and leave, on your organization.

That’s not the only goal, of course. I also hope you are among the many individuals who apply Change Leadership to boost your personal success, satisfaction, income, career goals, etc. The “Genius” is to achieve both objectives, to create a legacy that both you and the organization benefit from, with the greater good taking the lead in driving your individual success. Scanning the bookshelves, however, and seeing so many management books that focus primarily on personal success suggests that the higher ideal of “organization-first” is not as prevalent as it should be. There are other warning signs.

Executive pay has been a hot and controversial topic for the past few years. Unfortunately, it reinforces the view that many business leaders put their self-interest above the interest of their employees and other stakeholders. Among many similar news stories, I recall a recent example about two senior executives from different companies who have potential pension plan payouts of over $80 million each. Is $80 million too much? I don’t know. We can hope the directors of these companies are basing their compensation judgments on sound criteria. (It may be $80 million is less than what these leaders deserve.) Making a lot of money is one of the expected rewards of being a top executive; it’s not new and it’s by no means wrong. But it’s hard to avoid getting a sense that in general the personal gain too often takes priority in leaders’ minds over driving lasting business performance. Simply from the common sense perspective of fostering teamwork in an organization, a smart leader will know that balancing a significant income and a sense of proportion are essential.  Here is what the great leader Atilla had to say on this subject:  “Care more for the rewarding of your Huns than for rewarding yourself. Your own rewards will then far exceed even your greatest hopes and dreams.”[1]

The personal versus organizational focus of many leaders is also evident in what I’ll call the “Make your Mark” syndrome. This is the almost compulsive behavior of many new leaders to initiate change as soon as they take over, regardless of the potential negative impacts. Of course, there may be valid reasons to shake things up: A new leader may be arriving to correct a bad situation or replace a leader who’s lost control or gotten into a rut. And eventually every leader needs to take action to establish his or her own credibility and to continue moving the organization forward.

But I’ve observed many, many cases where immediate changes have more to do with the new leader’s personal preferences or desire to just to do something than with real organizational needs. And in quite a few of those instances, the net effect of the change is negative: Worthwhile projects get squelched, culture change gets frustrated, talented people get discouraged. That’s where leader ego or ambition trumps the value to the business.

The common phenomenon of leaders protecting their own turf is another example of confusion between organizational and individual agendas. Barriers or silos—and the mistrust that goes with them—have plagued organizations since the first specialization of labor. (I can imagine the scene around the pyramids in ancient Egypt: workers moving huge stones complaining about the tomb designers, “These guys just don’t get it!”)

What’s wrong with a leader pushing for his or her group to get more resources, authority, or recognition? Nothing—so long as it’s balanced with the broader needs of the organization. But that advocacy often appears self-serving or ignorant of the entire business environment or the perspective of other groups. And so the organizational barriers get higher and thicker.

I got an early taste of this misplaced advocacy in my first job out of college at a radio station in Southern California. It came in a staff meeting when our Ad Sales Manager—an industry veteran—proclaimed to the entire station that “Nothing happens until there’s a sale, baby!” Most of us were young and fairly open minded, so we thought about that comment. We had to agree that without ad revenues, our paychecks would bounce, so he had a point. On the other hand, advertisers need an audience for their commercials, and listeners would only tune in if the on-air personalities were appealing. Once the spot was aired, we needed the accounting people to collect money from the advertisers and get it to the bank. And you had to have a studio, microphones, and a transmitter, all maintained by the engineering staff. In other words, no single department in the radio station, once you started to think about it, could claim to be the key. All were essential.

So the Sales Manager’s boasting—or organizational advocacy—turned out to seem narrow-minded and disrespectful of the other, non-sales folks in the room. Everyone needed to pull together to make the organization a success. It was a lesson I’ve always kept in mind.

When leadership success is measured by ego, head count, or budget it can lead to some very imbalanced choices. When leadership success is measured by the value of the contribution to the greater good, then the organization prospers. For a leader, it can be like good career karma—what goes around for the business as a whole comes around to the individual’s personal fulfillment and growth.

This may sound a little naïve. If you don’t “look out for number one,” you’ll never get ahead, right? Well, as always, our theme is balance: putting success of the larger organization first does not mean forgetting your own interests. Fighting for what you believe in, or seeking recognition for your achievements, is not incompatible with putting the organization’s success first. Applied properly, that emphasis should give you a stronger case for your value because of your commitment and because a leader who’s also a team player is much more likely to deliver value to the organization.

– Excerpt from Pivotal Thought Leadership, Teamwork & Independance – Part 1  – .  For more on the foundation concepts of Change Leadership, please review Change Leadership: A New Standard for 21st Century Leaders

[1] Wess Roberts , Ph.D., Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, New York: Time Warner Books, 1990, p.79. This is actually a comment written by Roberts in a fictional but very worthwhile review of leadership principles that often echo ideas in this book.
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Lean Leadership – Be Wary of Non-Value Adding Management Activities


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Learn & Lead - Pivotal Resources Thought Leadership

Some of the least Lean aspects of many organizations are the management activities. My colleagues and I consistently find a high proportion of “non-value-adding” tasks in arenas such as sales, marketing, order management, human resources, finance, etc. involved decisions, sign-offs, reviews and other activities involving leaders. Ask yourself if you’ve ever heard this comment: “We’re ready to go, but we’re waiting for the boss to decide.”

Any Leader who’s demanding speed also needs to ensure his or her own intrusions on the work process—well-intentioned though they may be—don’t slow things down unnecessarily. Creating Lean leadership processes requires some fairly straightforward steps:

1. Recognize leadership as a non-value-adding role. I can sense the egos getting a bit riled at that one … Of course, leadership is critical to a successful business. But as viewed by your paying customers, on an everyday basis you are probably not really adding anything all that essential to the process. Think of what you do as being akin to the conductor of an orchestra: While the leader wields the baton, the music produced by the musicians is the final product the audience pays for.

2. Identify and evaluate your value-adding activities. Once you’ve become at least open to the idea that a leader’s role in daily activities is to guide but not hinder (i.e. can be non-value-adding), you can begin to examine and optimize your contributions. Some of the work you do may actually be value adding from a customer point of view, especially if you get involved in actually designing products, delivering services, or winning customers (leaders do that too), but it may well be less than you think. A great value-adding leader example: One of the most successful advertising agencies of the past couple of decades is Hal Riney and Partners of San Francisco (now a unit of global ad giant Publicis). The agency produced some of the most recognized and effective ads of the 1980s and 1990s, including the Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler campaign for Gallo, and Ronald Reagan’s famous “Morning in America” TV spot created for the 1984 presidential election. Agency founder and president Hal Riney was more than a “conductor.” He not only wrote much of the copy for his clients’ commercials, he was the familiar, soft-spoken, avuncular voice of many of the agency’s famous spots. His was a truly value-adding presence for his customers.

In looking at your value-adding efforts, it’s a good idea to test your assumptions about whether you are really the right person for those tasks. Like Hal Riney, your talent may be irreplaceable, the economics of the business may require you to take on some of those tasks, or you may just be a “hands-on” leader.

On the other hand, you could be doing what I call “raking the lawn.” This term was inspired by my Dad, who after assigning my brother and me to spruce up the yard when we were kids would invariably walk by, look at what we were doing, and say, “Here, let me show you how!” Several minutes later, the lawn was all raked. (Thanks, Dad!) A lot of impatient leaders fall into this habit; it feels good but it can send the wrong message to your people, slow things down, and detract time from leading the yard work.

3. Take steps to “lean out” your leadership and management. The goal is to identify and differentiate the useful leadership interventions from those liable to unnecessarily slow down the work, and stop getting in the way when it’s not really critical.

Figure 1 diagrams a typical sales process with time data included along the bottom (this is a modified “Value Stream Map” format). As noted, the wait time in the process is all tied to the Director’s reviews, which from the end customer’s perspective are non-value-adding steps. Out of a total 11-plus days to complete a sale, 7 are spent waiting for the Director to review the documents. If that sounds exaggerated, guess again: We find many such processes where as much as 80 percent of the elapsed time is just “on hold” or non-value-adding time.

Figure 1 – Impact of “Non-Value-Adding” Leadership Activities on a Project

Non-Value-Add Leadership Activities

 

– Excerpt from Pivotal Thought Leadership, Speed and Deliberateness – Part 2  – .  For more on the foundation concepts of Change Leadership, please review Change Leadership: A New Standard for 21st Century Leaders
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Failing To Success – Change Leadership Benefits?


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Learn & Lead - Pivotal Resources Thought Leadership

In the midst of the high-tech America’s Cup races that took place in the San Francisco Bay and the incredible speeds exhibited, I am reminded of capsizing sailboats, and how they apply to Change Leadership.

An underlying premise behind Change Leadership is that success is best achieved by moving as close to the limits of risk as you can afford, while avoiding any actual pain.  A good analogy—especially in a topic about speed—is a sailboat. To maximize speed, the sailor has to optimize the pressure on the sail almost, but not quite, to the point of flipping the boat. When risks are higher (say, there are sharks in the water) the person at the helm will rightly back off a little more from the edge because the potential costs of capsizing are more significant.[1]

But what about when a new boat is being designed? Or when the costs of not being at the limit are higher than going past it? In other words, is there a case when making the boat flip might actually be smarter than not flipping? The answer in a business context is “Yes!”

One of my colleagues earlier in my career inspired me by enthusiastically talking about how we were going to “make mistakes at a high rate of speed.” Later, I saw this attitude exhibited in some companies that deliberately put products on the market knowing they are not yet nearly perfect. Even later I heard this strategy described as the “fail fast” approach.

Some conditions for a true “fail fast” approach—where your mistakes are in plain view of your customers and even competitors—include the following:

  • Getting something on the market—either alongside and/or ahead of your competitors—is key to your success.
  • Your customers are resilient, mature, or savvy enough to handle any problems caused by your product or service’s “failure.”
  • Your customers will not “blacklist” you for failure—and may even see you as a partner in helping them by taking the fail fast risk.
  • You’re able to invest the time to support your customers in the event of a failure.
  • You have the focus and resources to observe, learn from, and respond to the failure with solutions and/or a “newer-and-better” product or service.

There’s a lot of value in understanding, and using, a fail fast strategy in an environment where speed is critical and excessive deliberateness has its own risks. Often, the risk management paradigm of leaders and businesses as a whole (best reflected in the phrase “don’t screw up”) promotes behavior where ideas are not tested under the harsh conditions they’ll have to endure in the real world. A lot of the time (probably most) this is the right call. Keeping the sailboat from tipping over is usually smarter than getting into a cycle of capsizing and righting the boat. But as a leader, you need to be aware of when it is worthwhile—and safe—to capsize the boat.

– Excerpt from Pivotal Thought Leadership, Speed and Deliberateness – Part 2  – .  For more on the foundation concepts of Change Leadership, please review Change Leadership: A New Standard for 21st Century Leaders
[1] The point at which the sailboat tips over is technically known as the “vanishing point.”
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Change Leaders Challenge Assumptions


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Learn & Lead - Pivotal Resources Thought Leadership

When businesses get into the deepest trouble, you can usually trace the source of their difficulties to an inability to see past a “truth” that is no longer valid. The willingness to challenge “received wisdom” is one of the hallmarks of Change Leadership. Without the readiness to question the status quo—to actually introduce doubt and deal with it proactively—you and your business become significantly more vulnerable to changes you can’t control. Or you set off on ventures that leave you in serious trouble. In fact, the fundamental purpose of our 10-Second Rule (see Change Leadership – A New Standard for 21st Century Leaders) is to give you a focused opportunity to examine your and others’ assumptions before acting, or deciding not to act.

To some people, questioning assumptions or challenging accepted beliefs suggests being negative, cowardly, shaky. For a leader to do it threatens to undermine people’s confidence. Clearly there is risk to pushing against the current view of the world or the expectations behind your current initiatives. But not to do so is usually worse.

Let’s start with a nonbusiness analogy: I live in California, where of course the ground tends to move from time to time. You might assume that the best kind of building to withstand an earthquake would be a solid, more rigid structure: Just make it so tough that no jolt will knock it down! The reality, however, is that the best structures for an earthquake are able to give—they are built to move with the ground motion and absorb the shaking. In earthquake country you want your buildings to be both strong and flexible.

This is equivalent to the role of leadership “assumption busting”—the conscious act of testing commonly accepted beliefs about customers, markets, technology, etc. By being less rigid in your thought, you can prepare to be more flexible when the environment around your business starts shaking and you need to respond or adapt.

History and business lore are full of infamous assumptions and faulty “truths.” You’ve likely heard of the comment by the then-head of Digital Equipment Corporation that “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.” I’m fairly sure you knew that Internet commerce was going to put brick and mortar retail establishments out of business, right? More recently, U.S. automakers recognized the potential benefit of hybrid technology, but instead of using it to boost gas mileage, incorporated electric engines to improve acceleration.

One of my favorite corporate assumption stories involves the old, post-breakup AT&T and its grand strategic plan to win new customers and more lucrative business. With intense price competition in long distance services, AT&T embarked on a costly effort to acquire an array of telecommunication services that it could sell bundled as an easy “one stop shopping” offering for consumers. The benefit: AT&T gets more of your business, and you only have to write one check. The problem was, customers not only didn’t see that much benefit in the “one stop” approach, those who did sign on actually got upset when they saw services that they’d previously paid for separately all added up into one bill! One-stop shopping, the strategy that AT&T had invested billions in to achieve, just created sticker shock for the consumer!

In a business you have to operate every day based on “givens” and assumptions. These assumptions are not all bad; they help you move forward without having to question or debate every step or point of view ad nauseum. However, when critical assumptions are never challenged—especially if they are wrong—you’re like a brick chimney in an earthquake.

– Excerpt from Pivotal Thought Leadership, Certainty and Doubt – Part 2 .  For more on the foundation concepts of Change Leadership, please review Change Leadership: A New Standard for 21st Century Leaders
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Is it Sunny Today, Market Up? Take Responsibility to get Good Facts and Data


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Learn & Lead - Pivotal Resources Thought Leadership

One of the most common excuses leaders give for not using or for ignoring data is fear that it’s not valid. While I’m somewhat sympathetic—getting good data is not easy—I also think that can be a cop out. To be an effective leader, you will need facts you can rely on. If you can’t rely on them, you need to take responsibility to see how you can get better data!

The science of data collection can indeed be complex and technical, but the key questions you can ask to check your data and guide the organization toward better facts and data are not.

How Are We Defining This Measure/Data?

A great deal of the confusion about data arises from inconsistent definitions of the thing being discussed or measured. For example, we usually find simple concepts like “an order” are understood to mean very different things by different people/groups within a company. You need to ask questions to clarify and encourage clear and unambiguous measurement definitions—for example, what we mean by “an order”—both for specific instances as well as to improve your overall data-gathering systems.

An amusing example of misunderstanding data was told by a manager friend of mine whose boss received numerous financial reports in hard copy every day. One day, my friend asked the boss how useful the data was and his leader assured him the reports were a big help. He even pulled one out and pointed to a smiley face drawn on the cover page. “That tells me that our market share is up,” the leader explained. “If it’s there, I don’t even have to look at the data.”

My friend happened to see the person who generated that report the next day and asked about the smiley face. “Oh, that?” she said. “When it’s sunny out, I put a smiley face on every report I send out. It’s just my way of saying ‘Have a nice day.’”

– Excerpt from Pivotal Thought Leadership, Certainty and Doubt.  For more on the foundation concepts of Change Leadership, please review Change Leadership: A New Standard for 21st Century Leaders

 

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Developing the Habits of a True Change Leader – Certainty and Doubt


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Learn & Lead - Pivotal Resources Thought Leadership

“Certainty and Doubt” sets up an age-old argument on the nature of leadership. The conventional wisdom suggests that any leader who does not project absolute certainty in his or her decisions or convictions is doomed. “Never blink, never waiver,” is one of those powerful, inspiring phrases that many people would say defines a great leader.

But both common sense and a basic knowledge of history (political and business) should remind us that smart leadership in reality demands a dynamic balance of certainty and doubt. The literature is filled with stories of leaders who made full-steam-ahead choices and ran smack into icebergs. Conviction is critical. Trepidation can show weakness. But unwavering, foolhardy conviction is not the path to successful leadership either.

In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey tells a story illustrating that certainty in leaders is not always a virtue. Two battleships were at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather. The captain of the lead battleship was on watch as night fell. The ships were traveling through patchy fog that made visibility poor. Then, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported,

“Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”

“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.

“Steady, Captain,” came the answer, confirming that they were on a dangerous course.

The captain called to the signalman, “Signal that ship, tell them we are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees.”

“Advise you change course 20 degrees,” came the reply

The captain said. “Send this message: ‘I am a captain. You change course 20 degrees.”

“I’m a seaman second class,” was the reply. “Advise you change course 20 degrees.”

Now furious, the captain spat out, “Send this message: ‘Change course 20 degrees. I’m a battleship.”

Back came word from the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.”

The question for a Change Leader must be: How do I balance the type of strength and certainty needed to inspire followers, while allowing the seeds of doubt necessary to avoid disaster?

In fact, the theme of this information may be the most important in developing the habits of a true Change Leader. Fortunately the answer to striking the right balance between certainty and doubt is not found in being “weaker”—it’s actually found in being smarter and stronger.

– Excerpt from Pivotal Thought Leadership, Certainty and Doubt.  For more on the foundation concepts of Change Leadership, please review Change Leadership: A New Standard for 21st Century Leaders
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