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  • Writer's pictureSherry

Seven Lessons About Leading Change

Alex Dehgan, Chief Scientist & Director at the Office of Science &Technology, US Agency for International Developmemt recently published an article about the seven things he learned about leading change. As we enter a fresh year, it is important to look back on things learned and look forward to new change initiatives coming our way.

1. Dare Mighty Things. Dehgan suggests that the goals we set have to appeal to both the rational and emotional sides of human nature. Goals and expectations should be set to allow your team the space to do BIG things.

2. Consistency is Important. Especially in times of change, it is important to deliver consistency.  This may come in the form of  similar language, aligned practices, or united values. Consistency reduces skepticism and increases trust.

3. The Power of Architects. Dehgan's role was to serve as the Agency’s first dedicated Chief Scientist in two decades, but his actual job description was much closer to that of an architect. As he describes, "We built the architecture for a robust science and innovation ecosystem in the Agency, reversing the trend of the previous two decades that de-emphasized the technical strengths of the Agency." In some cases, the bureaucracy of an organization can become immutable to change over time, but strong leaders have the ability to change what is permissible and possible within an organization by developing an architecture that allows for innovation.

4. Find the Bright Spots. Elevate and Champion. Repeat. Dehgan uses the concept of "bright spots"  from Chip and Dan Heath's  book Switch as the concept for this point. Bright Spots are those employees willing to take a risk and raise their hand when others would not. As a leader, Alex needed to be a catalyst to help bring change to the Agency. Second, he was a customer service office for those who wanted to take on new approaches, but needed support. Third, he elevated and championed those who were willing to take the risks.

5. Innovation is Not Only About New Ideas. We recently had Rob Reindl present to our HRoundtable groups and he discussed the idea of developing a team that balances one another. A team of innovators can develop great ideas, but never produces any tangible product because they are too busy being the dreamers. A group of executors struggles to develop the grand innovations that make organizations successful, but is able to tell a dreamer when the idea is ready to become reality. The process of innovation takes the dreamers and the tangible executors to make reality.

6. Learn by Doing, Including By Failing. Experimentation is a natural part of innovation, but failure is rarely an accepted aspect of innovation. Dehgan suggests creating allies with other departments and enlisting a peer review system as a sounding board for innovation. How do you support innovation?

7. Be Fearless. For many of us there is that constant pressure to stay under budget, make a deadline, or work within a system. The struggle with that is, extraordinary ideas seldom comes from the mundane. Can we dare to take the jump into the unknown or move past the fear and towards the innovation?

You can read Alex Dehgan's article here.

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