Designing A Smaller Change

The Change Leader Weekly

To Action: Designing A Smaller Change

It’s funny how what we consider technology has changed so dramatically. Now when we think of cutting edge tech, we think of billionaires heading to space for the thrill of it, or the latest in data analytics and AI. But just a century ago, cutting edge technology was simpler. One such tech was canned food.

Although originally designed almost a century earlier, it only really started to become a cultural and commercial phenomenon in the early 20th century. This was an exciting time - but the market quickly became over-saturated, especially in the production and distribution of tomato-based pasta sauce.

Companies were all obsessed with making a tomato sauce that would satisfy everyone. That was until one company did something different - they stopped trying to meet the entire market with one product and instead created several, niche ones: a spicy one, a sweet one. etc. The result of this strategy? Slowly but surely, this company took market share from their competitors.

There’s a simple lesson in this for us as change leaders.

There’s this strong tendency when creating and driving change initiatives to ‘think big and broad’. When, in doing so, you end up hamstrung by 2 key elements:

1) The Planning Horizon. Put plainly - forecasting the future is harder the further out you get. Planning your actions for tomorrow is much easier and more certain than planning your actions in a month’s time, which is again easier than planning your actions in a year’s time.


2) The ‘Vagueness Tax’. There is an inverse relationship between the amount of money spent on a project and the clarity and usefulness of its scoped inclusions. There’s a ‘vagueness tax’ that’s added in as your change bundles more and more into itself.

So, what can we do?

Well. A number of things.

Here’s your game plan.

  • Accept that you don’t know it all.

  • Work in small chunks.

  • Don’t build the ‘Taj Mahal’. The larger the project, the larger the overhead. Think ‘vision-led mini-portfolio’, rather than ‘multi-year program of work’.

  • Ensure everything you do clearly links back to your WHY and Planned Change PROOF.

  • Eliminate your Ego from the solution. It’s not needed there.

#ChangeLeadership #ValuableChange

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To Ponder: Talking About Ego

“If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.

- The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams

While we’re talking about Ego, there’s something I see a little too often that simultaneously drives people crazy, while bloating out too many projects and programs.

A Change Leader’s Ego.

Here’s a simple example of how this can creep into our day to day change. I was having a conversation with a friend. He and his company had been developing a piece of software for the last 18 months. It had been a long, hard slog, but the end was in sight.

I felt for my friend. I was vicariously both excited and exhausted for him… That was until he told me something that absolutely blew my mind.

“Yeah, most of what is left I am doing for me, the customer result will largely be the same”.

As far as the customers were concerned - that product was READY. Yet, my friend was holding back release by a further 4-5 months to build in features just for him.

And that’s the thing here. My friend has a vision he is pursuing. But he is, against his own interests, adding additional time and cost to the end result.

This is ‘The Ego Component: The elements of the change kept in because the change leader wants them, and not because they add any value to the customers of the end vision.

And for everyone other than the change leader – this is a VERY painful source of waste.


Our own visions are best realised when we think not of what we achieve, but what we can now help others achieve.

In other words – not adding things just because we want them.

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To Reflect: Comforting Risk Management?

It’s funny - Formal Risk Management is notorious for being dry and boring.

Yet, when you look at what risk management is - it’s trying to create certainty in uncertain environments. Something that we, as humans, so often crave.

So why are risk logs often empty, and risk meetings so often avoided?

Perhaps we humans dislike formal bureaucracy more than we desire certainty?

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Coming Soon - Brendon Baker will be on the Remarkable Leadership Podcast

Through the fantastic reception to my book on Change Leadership: #ValuableChange, I’ve received an invitation to be a guest on the Remarkable Leadership Podcast with Kevin Eikenberry. Over the history of the podcast, Kevin has interviewed innovative thought leaders from across the world - including several internationally acclaimed best selling authors and professors.

I’m excited to join that cohort.

Recording is scheduled for a few weeks time, with release in a few months.

Watch This Space.

And if you want to learn more about why I’ve been invited to Kevin’s show - you can order your copy of Valuable Change here:

Get Your Copy of Valuable Change

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Have a fabulous weekend. See you next week.