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

More best and worst project names

My post on best and worst project names remains one of my most popular.  As a follow up, here’s a few more good and not-so-good names:

Sunrise was the name of the project that separated our IT systems and infrastructure from our former corporate parent.  IMO it was an excellent name because a sunrise is the tangible start of a “new day”, which the projected provided for our company.

[Company Name] 2001 was a common turn of the millenium project name, but one that didn’t wear well.   For example, many of these projects didn’t finish in 2001, as global rollouts continued on for several years.  Many colleagues felt silly trying to wrap up “2001″ in “2004″.  If you’re going to “date” a project, then make sure your plan doesn’t run past that date.

Phoenix sounds cool, but it should be used carefully.  It isn’t just a myth of renewal, but a Continue reading

Petraeus on Change and Lessons Learned

Still cleaning out the “blog ideas” attic and found this gem.  In this speech to the American Enterprise Institute, Gen. David Petraeus presented the Iraq surge as an organizational change problem.  He has clearly lived the change process, both in theory and practice:

[T]here are four steps to institutional change. First, you have to get the big ideas right–you have to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings. Second, you have to communicate the big ideas effectively throughout the breadth and depth of the organization. Third, you have to oversee implementation of the big ideas–in this case, first at our combat training centers and then in actual operations. And fourth, and finally, you have to capture lessons from implementation of the big ideas, so that you can refine the overarching concepts and repeat the overall process.

This last step — integration of lessons learned into the change process — is the wisdom here, IMO.    Strong performance feedback reinforces the successes of organizational change and remedies dysfunctional elements that threaten the change. Everyone gets the idea that “the side that learns and adapts the fastest often prevails”, which is an effective sound bite to help sell lessons learned.   Closing the loop creates, then reinforces, this virtuous circle of learning and adaptation.

Best and Worst Project Names

The name of an initiative is an oft-overlooked aspect of communications.  You’ll get a decent name if you work with an experienced OCM crew.  However, the most effective names I’ve seen weren’t focus-group tested so to speak.  Here they are:

  • Everest: Used for a SAP project that was challenging with a tight time line; however, the customer expected good returns from the initiative.  This name conveyed these attributes well: Everest is dangerous, has a short climbing window, and signifies the ultimate achievement.
  • OASIS: This was an acronym used to describe a SAP upgrade for a customer that had had a troubled initial implementation.  The name conveyed danger and privation.  More importantly, it reflected the key goal of the project: to provide a stable and modern ERP platform (the customer had waited years to upgrade).

Finally, I have a soft spot in my heart for Project BOHICA, a name we used on a project simulation team.  I’ve always wanted to use that one “for real”.

Any other best or worst names?

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