More on this month’s Ho‘ohana: Your Job is Change

“It’s a simple fact of competitive life: Every company constantly needs new ideas, new perspectives, new ways of thinking about its products, its services, and its customers.” — Robert B. Reich, Your Job is Change

Way back in October of 2000, Your Job is Change appeared in Fast Company Magazine. I was happy to see we can still retrieve it from their archives for reflection with this month’s Ho‘ohana theme of organizational change.

I read the article again this morning, and found you can strip away the date and it doesn’t matter: here’s the second paragraph:

“Change today happens suddenly, unexpectedly, unpredictably. It occurs in companies the way that we see it occur in biological systems or in technological breakthroughs: Change is sudden, nonlinear, and constant. Its amplitude and direction can’t be forecast. Killer apps can come from anywhere; new competitors are lurking everywhere. Markets emerge, flourish, inspire imitators, breed competitors, and disappear seemingly overnight. Brands, which once took years to establish and which, once established, seemed unassailable, now burst on the scene like a new strain of virus, finding competitive spaces and market niches that were previously invisible. Internet buzz can make a product overnight — or break it. There is more choice than ever, more challenge than ever — and more change than ever.”

See what I mean?

Coincidentally, my December Ho‘ohana post-it story happened just 3 months before the magazine hit newsstands, and we felt like Your Job is Change had been written just for us.

Then, in 2002 we turned the article into a full-blown month-long study in our organization’s managerial forums, again finding we had some discomfort in the ranks with another change rumble tumble. As VP of Operations, this was my introduction to the study (yes, I keep at lot of old stuff in my files”)

We are currently enjoying a much-needed, exciting and exhilarating “blood infusion” (not transfusion”) and this is absolutely great for our management team. If you are a fairly new manager here, read the article for insight and a tip on grabbing a “better-than-fair chance to succeed”. If you don’t think of yourself as a new manager, find out why you should be feeling invigorated about this blood infusion, and how you can lend support and depth to the team — as we know you can.

What else will you find in the article? Lots.

  • Find out why it’s good to feel uncomfortable.
  • Find out how you can have a constant view on the future, and be thought of as a “pusher”, while openly auditing what you’ve already been doing.
  • Find out why it’s a good strategy to undermine “relations” people, even though you pride yourself on cultivating good relationships.
  • Find out what the two big sources of change are in today’s economy, and who your best allies are in dealing with them effectively.
  • Find out why you have to get your “squad of powerful truth tellers” to tell you what they know.

Author Robert Reich explains why “Change today demands the change insurgent.” And we can all be change insurgents:

Rather than working from the top down, the change insurgent works from wherever he is. Many change agents used to depend on title, authority, or official sanction to undertake their change programs. Change insurgency doesn’t depend on formal rank; it depends on great ideas, powerful visions, and daring examples.”

Very cool.

And don’t be nervous, for he makes this other point:

“Change insurgency can be a team sport. The most effective change insurgents aren’t loners, mavericks, or revolutionaries. They work the system. They enlist others. They sell their ideas upward and outward, and they grab good ideas from others.”

It is a fairly long article (about a dozen printed pages), but don’t let that stop you: this is an instance where long is good: print it or bookmark it for very worthy weekend reading.


  1. Doug says

    I concur wholeheartedly with Rosa’s comments on Robert Reich’s article, YOUR JOB IS CHANGE, from the October 2000 issue of Fast Company. I know the topic of organizational change was one I suggested”but the article says what I wanted to say so much better than I ever could. I don’t know how I missed seeing that article, especially since I have spent the last 15+ years of my life learning firsthand about organizational change”working for organizations struggling with change.
    I like the difference Reich makes between a “change agent” and “change insurgent”. Since most of my focus for those 15+ years has been on “reinventing” and not “reengineering” organizations, I suppose I would fall more into Reich’s definition of a change insurgent.
    During that time I learned the universal “truth” about change. The expression of this “truth” that I like best is in a saying that most people attribute to Albert Einstein: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
    It is a deceptively simple statement, which carries powerful messages within it. For example, a careful examination of Reich’s “10 important rules for the change insurgent” will suggest that the universal truth mentioned above is firmly embedded in each of Reich’s messages about change.
    I agree completely with Reich’s list of rules. I would add, however, that in my experience one determining factor over all others is mostly responsible for change or the lack of it. That factor is the sense of urgency or motivation; it is the desire or will to change that is the primary determinant of organizational change.
    The success of any organizational makeover rests on the degree to which a sense of urgency is created around the need to change. The sense of urgency I refer to operates at the emotional level. So the challenge is to create a case for change based on emotion and not logic. All too often that is not the case and attempts to “sell” change end up being appeals to logic and reasoning”not the stuff that creates a burning sense of urgency.
    One of the keys to building the emotional case rests with the disruption of the status quo”and this is where I depart from Reich, who uses instead the term “disturb” to describe the destabilizing element needed for change.
    I believe that a significant disruption (beyond a mere disturbance) in the status quo is necessary in order to break up the organizational inertia and neutralize the “defenders of the status quo”. In order to secure a breach of the status quo, a rather large dose of cognitive dissonance, otherwise known as pain (an emotion) has to be introduced into the organization.
    Reich’s rule 4 talks about how to “conduct heat”so that the rising temperature becomes an incentive for the organization to change”” This is cognitive dissonance. The risk and consequences of staying the same have to become greater and more unpleasant than the risk and consequences of changing. That is how a sense of urgency is created.
    It is only when this occurs do people in organizations feel motivated to change. It is only when there is a collective sense of urgency are people open to modifying behaviors, changing old ways of thinking and acting, adopting new beliefs”and only then can momentum and forward movement toward different results/outcomes”and change truly occur.
    I apologize if I have portrayed organizational change in somewhat of a negative light”but having been in a few situations where efforts to change organizations failed (in some cases quite spectacularly), my views are somewhat colored by those experiences. And the sad fact is, most people don’t like to change, and when they do it’s usually because they are compelled to.
    I want to end this posting with a more positive saying on change. I don’t know the author of this one but it goes something like this: You can’t steal second base with your foot still on first base.
    Happy New Year! I will look forward to more Talking Story in 2005.