Tipping Point

We have been re-reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point over the past 10 weeks.  When considering how I would wrap up the re-read I had to fight the urge to parrot back the findings Gladwell identified in the conclusion: a few people are critical and that people’s biases matter.  I had to fight the urge because I think that every change leader should recognize that shotgun approaches rarely are effective, and even when they are efficiency suffers (translate efficiency into change costs more than it should). That was until a late night call to discuss the nuances of organizational change driven by training. Training, in which the basic strategy put forward was sheep dipping, training everyone and hoping some of it would stick, was the mechanism the voices on the other end of the phone were going to use to generate change. This was a serious conversation being put forward by several experienced coaches. When reminded of the Law of the Few, the coaches rationalized that their contract was for training not targeted interventions, therefore, training was what was going to be delivered. The call and the approach we end up devising by the end of the call was more nuanced, but the whole conversation drove home the point that sometimes everyone needs a reminder of the material in The Tipping Point. The idea that standing up in the middle of the room and yelling at the top of your voice to everyone in earshot (the train everyone only approach) is rarely effective. Step back and take the time to identify the connectors, the mavens and the salespeople. They aren’t always the same person and you can’t trust to the organization chart to point out the few people that move an organization.

I once did an experiment to try to map organizational influences.  I asked a department of approximately 100 people to identify the top three people they went to in order to get advice on how to really do projects in the organization (not just what was in the book).  The resulting map pointed at three people. Only one of those people was in the PMO. The three people were mavens (one turned out to be a connector also) who’s opinions moved the needle. The change program which up to that point was moving slowly (and was fairly ineffective) was able to shift gears with that knowledge.  Find the “few”, get a handle on how they perceive the world and then determine how to engage them in the change you are trying to influence. I have returned to the premise of this experiment many times to try to identify the linchpin to push a change over the tipping point. The stories and examples in the Tipping Point feel a bit dated but the core ideas are as fresh and as important as ever.  

We need to choose the next book in the Re-read Saturday Series! Steven Adams has requested a referendum on the next book!  Mr. Adams has always provided sage advice, therefore, a poll we will have!  The poll will be open for two weeks. Vote for your two favorites.

Until then I am reading Nucleon by Jeppe Hedaa.