Transcend principal Phil Hood and Steve Zlotolow, former associate dean of international and extended studies at San Jose State University, have announced a new Bay Area course that will be available to managers and teams beginning this fall. Change Management and Business Problem Solving: An Integration of Process and Practice updates a program they first delivered in 2006. It’s a condensed workshop providing a solid overview of concepts in change management, decision-making, and problem-solving. Rapid, intuitive tools are introduced that enable leaders to quickly cut to the heart of strategic and organizational challenges. Implementation exercises that enable students to work on their real-world problems and the challenges of executing change management plans are introduced throughout the two-day program. The course will begin this winter at CSU East Bay. Private workshops are also available.
The course provides a model for systematic change with a framework for problem-solving. It gives participants practice in using tools on their team’s real-world challenges.
The Change Process
Social and Organizational Context
Stages of the Process
Roles For Change Leaders and Team Members
Analytical Tools for Problem Solving
2 x 2 Thinking and Practice
For information on other executive courses or consultative workshops, contact Phil Hood.
The Republicans face a dilemma and it’s a big one. During the 2012 election, Obama won over Hispanic voters by better than a 70-30 margin. Though Democrats always win the majority of Hispanic voters in national elections, this was quite a comedown for Republicans from the 44 percent of Hispanics who voted for Bush in the 2004 election. After the election, consensus quickly built among party insiders and strategists that without a plan to appeal to this growing demographic, Republicans would find the White House out of reach.
“We could have won this election if the party had a better brand name with Hispanics,” said Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, speaking to Nicolas Riccardi of the Associated Press. “I don’t believe there’s a path to the White House in the future that doesn’t include 38 percent-40 percent Hispanic support.”
Ideas have consequences, and this meme-that the White House would soon be beyond reach-quickly found its way into Republican orthodoxy. Immediately, the party began promoting its young immigrant and non-white stars, and Republican members of Congress turned nearly 180 degrees on the immigration issue. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida proposed a comprehensive immigration bill that accomplishes much of what Democrats have sought for a decade, and he did it without much pushback from the party. It’s astonishing really, since in the spring of 2012, most of the primary candidates for the Republican nomination tried to outdo each other in how tough they could be on restricting a path to immigration, particularly for undocumented Hispanics. Rick Perry’s campaign really came apart after he told the other candidates “they didn’t have a heart” on issues related to undocumented Mexican immigrants!
Heads They Win, Tails We Lose
But coming around to reality on immigration doesn’t solve the party’s electoral woes. It’s just the start of a long and overdue rebuilding process. As a recent cartoon by the Washington Post’s Tom Toles illustrates, Republican’s lose either way in the immigration debate. [Ed. The cartoon shows a donkey and an elephant discussing an immigration bil. The donkey says “If you don’t sign, you’ll lose votes.” And, the elephant responds “If I do sign, you’ll gain votes.” ] If Republicans don’t sign a bill they lose Hispanic votes in the next election. If they do agree to allow more immigrants into the US and naturalize some of those who have resided here illegally, they may still lose because newer immigrants tend to vote Democratic.
Given all of this, what is the right strategy for the Republican party – hang in with traditional positions and values? Soften on this set of issues to “buy” Hispanic votes? Promise changes in return for support (i.e., sell the future to win the present)? The correct answer of course is none of the above. US democracy depends on there being two party options available. By available we mean able to win and capable of governing. This takes issue-leadership and broad appeal. Both parties need to be able to represent the needs of the vast majority of the country’s citizens. Rehabilitating credibility and capacity is needed – it’s overdue. This is substantial, long-term work, not a set of cosmetic touch-ups packaged and positioned by marketers. The right strategy for the party is one that respects and leverages core Republican values while simultaneously re-establishing itself as modern and open to today’s young people and immigrants. That won’t be done overnight.
The Installed Base Problem
One concept we can borrow to examine the Republican dilemma comes from the world of technology: the installed base. An installed base is the set of individuals who have adopted your product. Many products exhibit “network effects” i.e, the product becomes more valuable as more people use it. Political parties exhibit a form of this that market researchers call “social effects”: adoption by others updates or validates your self-image or opinion, and increases your social utility. In short, as a political party becomes stronger—has a larger installed base—a positive feedback loop is created. It becomes easier to pass legislation and more voters may want to identify with that party. But in technology there is a down side to having a huge installed base – with growth comes resistance to change, as long-time users become accustomed to the status quo and reject efforts to improve or update features, creating an opening for competitors.
A highly inflexible installed base hampers a political party’s ability to make timely policy changes. Before long, strength becomes weakness, and the same things that lock in a loyal core, lock out a growing majority of voters. Republicans have a strong, installed base who historically have been opposed to social changes from women’s liberation to liberalized immigration policies to gay marriage. But, like Microsoft in the ’90s when the company had to satisfy both legacy DOS users and those who wanted a faster modernization of Windows, Republicans need to hold onto current voters while reaching out to new ones. They are already taking the first tentative steps down that road, recognizing that there is no inherent conflict between Republican tenets and openness to the latest generation of immigrants. But any significant influx of new Hispanic voters will probably help Democrats in the short term.
The strategic necessity to change the party’s position on immigration becomes clear when you plot the relationship between possible legislative outcomes against changes in the historic Republican position (see diagram). If the Republicans take a hard-line position against immigration reform, they are handing elections for the foreseeable future to the Democrats, with very little prospect for gains, regardless of what happens with new immigration legislation. Ironically, the impact on the party’s fortunes appear worse if they succeed in scuttling legislation, which now appears unlikely (lower left). Only if they make the position change now can they set themselves up to gain a larger share of immigrant votes in future elections and contribute to a sense of national unity on this key issue.
We love our heroes. We hate to see them fall, but when they do, they fall twice as hard. Lance Armstrong’s achievements as a cancer survivor, competitive athlete and fundraiser place him in a rare class of his own. Revelations that he (may have) cheated to win, and pressured his teammates to do the same, are disconcerting. Graced with remarkable talents, it feels tragic to us that he would succumb to a desire to win at any cost. Dilemmas abound in this case, for Lance Armstrong himself, for the professional cycling world and the bodies that oversee it, for the charitable organization founded by him to raise money to fight cancer, and finally, for fans who find themselves torn, not knowing whether to criticize him for such a moral lapse or stand by him for his courage, accomplishments and contributions. Let’s take a look at a few of these.
Part 1: How he got into this mess
Why do people cheat? Dan Ariely’s latest book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, explores the slippery slope of rationalization that renders lying and cheating acceptable. Hardly a rational process, lying is strongly influenced by social and psychological forces. If we are surrounded by cheaters, if we feel justified to lie, it becomes easier to do so. Step by rationalizing step, Armstrong slid into the lie. He is torn between the desire to advance his own interest and win versus respecting common rules and honoring fair play. Recovering from life-threatening testicular cancer, he may have needed a boost. Most survivors of aggressive cancer treatment feel lucky just to return to a normal daily routine, let alone push their bodies to compete with the world’s top athletes! Where is the clear line between therapeutic drugs and performance-enhancing drugs? Does his health condition justify bending the rules? How much artificial assistance is defensible, and what is the likelihood of detection?
Armstrong is not the first and won’t be the last to feel the intense draw of temptation; from the corrupting power of the dark side of the Force in Star Wars to the mythic tale of Robert Johnson selling his soul in exchange for mastery over the guitar, we are all too familiar with the archetype of immense otherworldly ability-at-a-cost. What were some of the options Armstrong might have considered? Following the noble path of Selflessness (upper left quadrant), while admirable, is not an easy choice for fierce competitors, and clearly Armstrong is that! Shooting for the upper right box where Self Interest and Common Good intersect may be ideal, but perhaps not a real option here. The lower left quadrant, Foolishness, looks at first like a nonstarter, but a moment or two’s reflection shows that it happens all too often: remember Tiger Woods and Michael Vick? The final option, the one he appears to have chosen, is to do whatever it takes to win. Morality aside, outright pursuit of self-interest can be risky. Get caught, and the price you pay will be high. Armstrong got caught and is paying a hefty price for not managing this dilemma better.
Part 2: The outside-in perspective: cycling world and fans
How do we judge the choices and actions of others? Which is more important, intent or outcome; difficulty or result; style or substance? Is it ever OK to do bad things to achieve a greater good? Who decides when it is acceptable to reset conventional boundaries of right and wrong? If you could have killed Hitler in 1938 before the atrocities of the Holocaust occurred, would you have pulled the trigger? If you could hide the fact that you or someone else did something like this, would you, or is it more important that they be held accountable for the crime they committed? It took anti-doping agencies over a decade to finally render a stinging judgment against Armstrong, prompting a lifetime ban on any further competing and the retroactive loss of his seven Tour de France titles. Legal complexities and costs aside, this must have been a tough decision to take, given the predictable consequences to the man, the sport, the many fans, and the cancer cause for which his foundation has raised over $500 million.
This matrix looks at the dilemma from the perspective of the leaders of the eponymous Lance Armstrong Foundation. This cannot be easy! On the one hand, they will want to stand by the founder and through solidarity, preserve the integrity and value of the organization and its capacity to do good (the horizontal axis). But on the other hand, as evidence against Armstrong mounts, credibility and survival depend upon facing reality, and seeing that truth and justice prevail (the vertical axis). Where will they end up? The best outcome they can hope for at this point is a graceful exit and transfer of leadership (upper right quadrant). They have started down this path. Armstrong resigned as head of Livestrong on October 17th. Time will tell if the organization and Armstrong can successfully transition and continue to pursue their fund-raising and consciousness-raising work.
Part 3: How he deals with the mess he’s in
Lance Armstrong has announced he will not challenge or fight the charges. The emotional, reputational and financial costs are punishing (Forbes estimates his earnings in 2010 from endorsements and speeches were in excess of $17 million). While appearing to accept the verdict, he rejects its accuracy, stubbornly maintaining his innocence. He has just tired of trying to prove it. The operators of the Tour de France are so convinced of his guilt that they have decided not to pass along the title to any of the other top competitors from the seven years in question. Doping, they say, was rampant in the sport during those years.
How then should we depict Armstrong’s current dilemma? He has a lot at stake, and at 41, many productive years ahead of him. We could look at money versus reputation, or, personal needs versus those of his charitable foundation. Globe and Mail reporter Hayley Mick has an interesting take on it (Armstrong’s dilemma: Fess up or shut up), looking at whether or not he admits to his guilt, when and how. In her article published on October 23, she follows the fates a number of other high profile figures caught in similarly embarrassing transgressions, some of whom were forgiven while others were not. Bill Clinton famously abused the power of his presidential office, then admitted his guilt through a very public and painful process, and in time returned to great popularity and prominence. He found Redemption. Baseball’s Barry Bonds and sprinter Ben Johnson both were found guilty of doping, both denied wrong-doing, and consequently, remain Pariahs who have not been forgiven. While Armstrong may be looking for a Graceful Exit, his refusal to take any responsibility for the mess he finds himself in is causing him to Lose Credibility, and become a Pariah to his charitable foundation and the sport he loves. Simply denying guilt doesn’t make it disappear. When you have been caught red-handed, it’s too late to cover up; you need to acknowledge the facts, take responsibility for your part in how things turned out, and swallow your lumps. Admitting guilt is not always the opposite of protecting your reputation. Paradoxically, in cases such as this, it is the route you must follow if you want to recover it.
Alex Lowy and Transcend Strategy Group have announced a new two-day critical thinking workshop offering. More than ever successful leaders are called upon to combine critical thinking with experience to identify meaningful alternatives, make the best choices and achieve optimum outcomes. However, workplace dynamics and distractions often undermine their effectiveness as problem solvers. Expedience replaces thoughtfulness and agility.
This latest offering is based upon solutions that were researched and published in The Power of the 2 x 2 Matrix (2004) and No Problem (2007). Issues are separated into three logical types: decisions, problems and dilemmas. We have developed powerful and elegant tools to deal with each type in the most effective way. Integrating the research and the toolset with unsolved problems creates an Action-Learning framework that improves critical thinking and ensures deeper understanding, retention and behaviour change. The resulting programs have been taught to countless managers and executives around the world, improving their performance.
“We have used these tools successfully with large and small companies, both in strategy planning and in group training in critical thinking,” says Lowy. “With the recent expansion of our team of seasoned facilitators, we are able to go deeper into training our clients.”
Alex Lowy, Phil Hood and Alan Hutton combine their talents to deliver these applied critical thinking programs using their Action-Learning framework for in-house leadership development.
What are the current issues and challenges in your life? Can they be fairly described as dilemmas? Or are they more like what we call a problem—which means there is a a solution? The answer helps reveal options and paths you can follow to navigate your way through challenges.
The archetypal personal dilemma is about tradeoffs between contributions and rewards. In our work environment we experience this as a dilemma between personal effectiveness and personal satisfaction. We all need to receive as well as give, and we have a drive to increase our personal effectiveness at work and achieve satisfaction in our personal lives.
One of our students described this personal dilemma. He was a Chinese-American and had completed graduate school in the US. His plan had been to stay here and start a career. But after graduation his father’s manufacturing business in China suffered setbacks. The son suddenly felt unspoken family pressure to return to Asia and work in the family business. He was torn between the desire to help his father in the short term and his long-term personal goal of a successful business career in the US, which included more graduate school. He used the Personal Dilemmas method to clarify those parts of his conflict which were resolvable and those that were not. He ultimately decided that he could not give up his US life, but that he would take a two-year hiatus and work in North America in his father’s business, building up good experience on his resume while discharging personal and cultural obligations to family.
Dilemmas present tradeoffs between powerful conflicting forces in our lives. Urgency versus importance; cost versus benefit; what I want today versus what I need tomorrow. The goal of the personal dilemma assignment is to fairly describe those aspects of your current challenges that are dilemmas.
Here’s a quick method for defining personal dilemmas
Step 1 Write down one, or possibly two major challenges you face in your personal life. Step 2 Symptoms: Make a list of up to ten symptoms of the challenge. Answer these questions. What are you feeling? What is it like to experience this conflict? How does this challenge impact your life or the lives of significant others?
Step 3 Try to write a trial dilemma using the form, “In my life I experience tension between _________ and __________. You can create as many trial dilemmas as you like. Let yourself be creative and colorful in your choices. (“I experience tension between trusting my kids and imposing the right amount of discipline.” “I experience tension between my ambitions and reality.) Step 4 Take a look at the trial dilemma statements. Are many of them similar? See if you can combine similar items, Strive to choose two labels for the axes of your matrix that synthesize the most relevant forces at play in your trial dilemma statements. Step 5 Draw a 2 x 2 matrix and name your quadrants. Giving a name to each quadrant helps us better understand what we’re facing, and take personal responsibility for the situation.