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Something To Sleep On Newsletter from 04/01/2018

Quote I am Pondering: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Aspire to do Great Things … and Accept Nothing Less

Dateline March 12, 2018 – Palm Springs, CA

There’s something about sitting on the balcony in Palm Springs, with palm trees in the foreground and a backdrop of majestic San Jaconto mountains, that inspires aspirational thoughts.

Those who know me will attest to the fact that I’m not the “resort type”. Far from it. But I must admit that an occasional respite from the “day to day” routine works wonders to clear the mind. I’m here for a conference. Tomorrow, I’ll give a talk on effective strategies in a world of rapid change and uncertainty. Even though I’ve written about this before, it’s a topic that stays at the forefront of my mind. I’m hoping that my passion about this will both inform and inspire.

Merriam-Webster defines aspiration as “a strong desire to achieve something high or great”. “High or great” – let those words sink in for a moment. Not “good enough”. Not even just “good”. And certainly not “meeting my needs”. But in many cases, the strategies we put in place, and the change initiatives that they spawn, are pain-driven or needs-driven, as opposed to being aspirationally-driven.

At the risk of oversimplifying things, let’s identify three distinct types of change in organizations:

  • Incremental change often takes the form of “accumulated adjustments”, using observation, inferences or judgments in order to do things better, but not fundamentally differently and
  • Transitional change, whereby attempts are made to build on the current state but make material improvements to it through such things as implementing new programs or technologies, making organizational changes or forming new strategic partnerships, but
  • Transformational change represents something completely different. Transformational change is about doing things not just better but radically differently, it’s about changing paradigms and achieving a totally new, “higher” state in pursuit of an overarching vision.

Incremental and transitional change initiatives more often than not are driven by a perceived pain or need, be it external (for example, new competitive entrants or cost pressures from suppliers) or internal (for example labor issues or operational inefficiencies). But aspirationally-driven initiatives can result in true transformational change. They represent a vision that extends well beyond current exigencies. Beyond the demands of the next quarterly earnings. Beyond the need to “do something” in order to survive. Transformational change requires new belief systems, which result in new mindsets.

Moonshot Goals Can Transform Society

Check out this article from several years ago in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. I have contended for some time that, when it comes to aspirationally-driven transformation in pursuit of bold initiatives, we can learn a lot from nonprofits. In this article, leaders of two transformational nonprofit organizations, Share Our Strength and KaBOOM! argue that “the sector needs to shift its attention from modest goals that provide short-term relief to bold goals that, while harder to achieve, provide long-term solutions by tackling the root of social problems.” Bold goals. (Think John Kennedy and the goal to put a man on the moon). Aspirationally-driven goals. These are the roots of true transformation.

Weekly Question:

What could you do to effect truly transformational change in your organization?

For over thirty years, Mike has been actively involved, as a coach, entrepreneur, scientist, business executive and management consultant, in the areas of executive leadership, organizational development and change management, strategic planning and execution, and financial analysis. He has provided strategic, operational and financial leadership to small and medium-sized firms, as well as Fortune 500 companies and large government organizations, in a broad range of industries. Mike holds BS and PhD degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology and has had additional training in finance and accounting, strategic planning and management, leadership development, and succession planning, from various top-tier institutions.

Mike Cobb

Mike has provided strategic, operational and financial leadership to small and medium-sized firms, as well as Fortune 500 companies and large government organizations, in a broad range of industries.

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