Lenin and Driving Change

When Vladimir Lenin posed this question in 1901, socialism was riven.  Most early Marxists believed that the core prediction of Marx’s theory — an inevitable proletarian revolution — was just around the corner.  But by the turn of the 20th century, the revolution appeared farther away than ever.  If anything, the contradictions among the classes were cooling in advanced capitalist states, not boiling over.  

So why the two-bit summary of a turn-of-the-20th century dispute among socialists?  Simply this: Lenin’s pamphlet paved the path for revolutionaries around the world.  As I was noodling on The Meaning of #Stoos, I re-read it and picked out a few things that change agents can learn from Lenin:

  1. Show that you know “What Is To Be Done?”  The title itself is a clear call to change, which Lenin knew would intrigue and inspire his audience.  It also hints that he had the answer.
  2. Show that you know the problem  Lenin realized that Marxist theory was a powerful “call to take the field against the enemy.”   But its guidance was so focused on the economics of workers vs. capital  that most volunteers went into “battle with astonishingly primitive equipment and training.”  Success would take a group of professional revolutionaries  using “all the rules of the art” of organizing.  Furthermore, his arguments hit hardest Continue reading

A few thoughts on Stoos

I’ve enjoyed the bits and pieces of Stoos I’ve picked up, mostly via Jurgen Appelo‘s summaries (the discussions at the LinkedIn group have been valuable as well).  For those who aren’t familiar with the Stoos Gathering, the goal was modest, but the topic was bold:

At the Stoos Gathering we will discuss how to accelerate change in management and organizational transformation.

That’s all?  More seriously, I love the ambition and it it has been great grist for my mental mill, especially these three themes in the documents and discussions:

  1. Leaders should change themselves first: A fellow named “Hank” noted this in the pre-gathering documents.  For example, leaders who have not learned to self-forget may find they struggle to build trust.  And putting spiritual traditions aside, those who have not tended to their spiritual armor will find they cannot resist the forces of reaction.
  2. “The Problem” will prove a crafty and adaptive foe: Steve Demming notes that “the participants left for a future time evaluations of the best ways of getting from “the problem” to “the desired outcome.”  Wise move, because IMO these “best ways” will have to contend with Anna Karenina Syndrome: “Happy firms are all alike; every unhappy firm is unhappy in its own way.”  The solutions must be viral, in every sense of that word.
  3. Beware introducing “corporate managers”: I’ve seen a desire to involve corporate managers into Stoos what Jurgen calls Management 3.0.  That’s great, but some of us are “The Problem” and aren’t self-aware enough to know it (see point one).  I’m especially concerned about two types: those who’ll want to boil it all down to “one particular approach” and those who’ll pick any work product apart as “impractical”, “not actionable”, “unrealistic”, etc.
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