Walking the Tightrope

Leaders walk a tightrope – balancing the need for change against the willingness and ability of the organization to implement those changes successfully.

Since “change imposed is change opposed”, how can a leader bring change into their organization? Especially if the change will add even more load to key individuals who are already stressed out. If the leader insists on implementing the change, the best people might leave, causing their work to be split among the survivors who already feel overloaded, thereby increasing the probability that they might leave, too.

One approach is:

· Focus on the vision and mission of the organization. If the vision and mission is to use the organization’s products and service to help make a better world for our children, it is one (major) reason why the employees work there. Seeing how the proposed change will help them accomplish their mission will be an incentive to implement the change. However, if the vision and mission is to maximize return to the shareholders, this tactic will probably not be very effective. (Incidentally, contrary to what most people believe, data conclusively show that for-profit companies that honor people and respect the planet deliver substantially higher returns to investors. Thus, for-profit companies can have vision and mission statements that truly engage their workforce.)

· Ask what the individual is currently doing that can be 1) discontinued, or 2) offloaded to another person. Discontinuing is the better alternative, because then the total workload actually diminishes. Value Stream Mapping is a Lean tool that can help an organization see what adds value to the customer (and should be continued), and what does not add value to the customer (and therefore is a candidate for discontinuation). Offloading is less desirable because it merely shifts the work, and because most people (including the “offloadee”) have little or no slack in their workday.

This approach works because it honors the people and works with them. It’s the antithesis of the corporate version of the Golden Rule – “The person with the gold makes the rules!” This approach is better for the long term than forcing change, because forcing change frays the underlying relationship and goodwill, which is the foundation upon which all organizations operate.

What do you think? I’d enjoy your feedback, or, even better, an e-mail exchange (gary) or phone call (971-221-8155)

Gary Langenwalter

Neither Good Nor Bad

I’ve learned not to judge events as “good” or “bad”, under most circumstances.

A couple weeks ago, an ice storm closed Portland down. One casualty of the storm was a public workshop on Process Improvement (Lean/Quality/Change) that I was going to lead, which got rescheduled to the first week of December. Unfortunately, not all the participants, who had paid for the workshop series, were available on the new date. That’s bad, right?

Maybe not…

I decided to offer the workshop to the participants who could not attend the rescheduled time, at their location, at no additional cost to them, so that they would receive full value for their investment in education. Three organizations accepted my offer. I requested that each of them invite other colleagues, again at no additional cost, so that we would have approximately 8 in the room – a 1-person workshop is VERY small!

As rewarding as it is to lead a public workshop, leading the on-site workshops is even more so. It’s a much smaller group (8, rather than 20). And I am able to use examples from their organization for the major exercises, allowing them to move their organization forward. In the public workshop, that is not possible.

So, as “bad” as the ice storm was as far as messing up people’s schedules and commitments, something good emerged – the opportunity to lead workshops on site for 3 organizations, using their own examples. Now I can view ice storms as “good”. Well, maybe…

Gary Langenwalter

Responding to Ferguson

How will your organization respond to Ferguson?

That depends on the vision and mission of your organization. If your organization exists merely to make profits for the shareholders, Ferguson might be at most a speed bump in your drive to achieve your goal.

If, however, your organization has the goal of creating a better, healthier society while making profits, Ferguson can be an opportunity to create dialogue, asking how people of different backgrounds and cultures can form relationships based on mutual respect and trust. In the final analysis, most humans are inherently similar – we want to be treated with love and respect, we want the opportunity to do something worthwhile, and we want our children and their children to have rich, full lives. You can use these universal goals as the foundation for creating meaningful dialogue, inviting people to work together to achieve them.

If you do this, your organization can be a source of healing, of hope, in an increasingly divisive and divided society. Doing this will directly impact all your people, both white and non-white. Your efforts will also inevitably reach beyond your organization. They will also impact your customers, your suppliers, and the communities within which you operate. You will be taking one seemingly small step toward healing the chasm between whites and minorities. But even though your efforts might seem insignificant, they will be joined by countless other acts of kindness that will indeed create the world we wish to see. As Mother Teresa reminds us, “We cannot do great things, only small things with great love.”

Gary Langenwalter

When You’re in a River of Flaming Shit

When I was the IT Director of Faultless Caster Corporation in Evansville, Indiana, I led a cultural transformation by implementing a new enterprise (ERP) system. About ¾ through the implementation, it felt like we were being nibbled to death by a school of rubber-toothed piranhas, and frustration was climbing to dangerous levels. In the weekly Steering Committee meeting, the VP of Sales and Marketing asked the inevitable question: “Hey, I’m not sure this is a good idea. Why don’t we just go back to the old system?” The CEO replied, “When you’re in the middle of a river of flaming shit, you gotta keep paddling toward the other side.”

We kept paddling, the new system came live (only a couple weeks late), and paid itself back in a year with increased sales, reduced costs, etc., etc., etc.

I draw on this and comparable experiences when I find myself in a similar situation. That’s when I get really “persistent” and continue paddling toward the other side. (Other people are mule-headed and stubborn, I’m goal-oriented and persistent.)

Have you ever been in the middle of a river of flaming shit? I’d enjoy hearing your story. I’ll buy the coffee.

Gary Langenwalter, 971-221-8155



Stop following someone else’s plans and start training dreams.

Stop listening to what other people tell you and just follow your dreams.

Stop going through the motions and work through your dream.

Stop trying to be perfect and stumble your way deliberately through your dreams.

Stop starting and stopping and starting and just keep moving towards your dream.

Stop comparing yourself to everyone else around you and just follow your dream.

Stop believing that someone else’s formula can replace hard work and relentlessly follow your dream.

Stop avoiding what needs to be done and live your dream. Not someone else’s.

Stop learning what you need to do and start doing what you need to do. Follow your dreams.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of going through someone else’s motions — doing what everyone else tells you you should be doing in order to be successful.

You’re told that you need to have a strong social presence. That you need to build a following. That you need to write a book so that “people take you will take you seriously”.

You’re told so many things by so many people that it’s easy to get whiplash — flailing from tactic to tactic, hoping that this time for one bit of effort you might actually end up achieve success.

But that’s not how success works. Never has been. Never will be.

And unless you’re one of the lucky few who happen to get lucky doing one thing, one time, someone else’s get-rich-quick tactics (or doing whatever one else tells you you should be doing) aren’t the answer to achieving breakthrough. Dreaming is. Dreaming big dreams.

Not sleeping. Not thinking. Not procrastinating. Dreaming is different than that. Dreaming is all consuming. All empowering. It consumes every fiber of your being. Your dream is what gets you up in the morning. It’s your reason for existence. It’s your light when the day is dark. Your sunshine when the days is cloudy.

You can’t copy someone else’s dream. You have to have your own. And, while it’s easy to follow the tactics of someone else who happened to be successful using those tactics, don’t be fooled for a moment that any tactic is a replacement for audacious dreams.

Dream big. Live big. Fight big. Believe big.

From Edgy Conversations 3/18/14 by Dan Waldschmidt