Change Leader (by Michael Fullan)


Premise of the Book: Learning to lead change is best done be practice and not theory. “…practice, especially deliberative practice, drives better practice. Practice is our best bet for finding solutions and for liberating innovation.” (pg 155)

In this book Fullan lays out a 7 part framework to guide the leader through a reflective process of leading change that is based on informing through deliberate practice.  He offers the lens of 7 insights as the framework by which the change leader should navigate the treacherous but rewarding waters of effective change and sustainable improvement of practice. Each insight is the focus and title of a chapter in the book.

Two Page Summary: See pages 153-154 for an excellent two page summary of the change framework for the entire book by Fullan in his concluding chapter.

7 Chapter Titles & Framework:

  1. Practice Drives Theory: Doing is the Crucible of Change
  2. Be Resolute: Act with Purpose and Empathy
  3. Motivate the Masses: Experience is Believing
  4. Collaborate to Compete: Multiply Capacity and Win
  5. Learn Confidently: Change Requires Confidence (true confidence requires humility)
  6. Know Your Impact: Drowning in Data, Thirsty for Knowledge
  7. Sustain Simplexity: Just Right Simple

7 Key Insights:

  • Chapter 1 – “The effective change leader actively participates as a learner in helping the organization improve.”
  • Chapter 2 – “Effective change leaders combine resolute moral purpose with impressive empathy.”
  • Chapter 3 – “Realized effectiveness is what motivates people to do more.”
  • Chapter 4 – “Collaborative competition is the yin and yang of successful change. Collaborate and compete.”
  • Chapter 5 – “Change leaders are more confident than the situation warrants but more humble than they look.”
  • Chapter 6 – “Statistics are a wonderful servant and an appalling master.”
  • Chapter 7 – “Simplexity is salvation for an intricate world.”

Introduction: This book begins with a summary of Fullan’s two previous books on leadership, which he indicates serve as the foundational knowledge for this book.  The are as follows:

Leading in a Culture of Change – (5 components provide the framework for change):

  1. Moral Purpose
  2. Understanding Change
  3. Relationship Building
  4. Knowledge Creation and Sharing
  5. Coherence Making

The Six Secrets of Change – (6 interrelated aspects of dealing with change):

  1. Love Your Employees
  2. Connect Peers with Purpose
  3. Capacity Building Trumps Judgementalism
  4. Learning is the Work
  5. Transparency Rules
  6. Systems Learn

Summary of the Chapters:

Chapter 1 – Practice Drives Theory: Doing is the Crucible of Change
Key Insight: “The effective change leader actively participates as a learner in helping the organization improve.”

4 Reasons We Must Ground Learning in Practice (each with cited research):

      1. Humans are not always in control of our own thoughts because the come from the subconscious
      2. Humans are unpredictable and unaware of what motivates them
      3. Humans are both selfishly driven and wired to connect
      4. Humans brains can be reshaped

Deliberative Doing – The Four Steps to the Core Learning for the Change Leader:

      1. Examine: first, most good ideas come from examining good practice of yourself and others
      2. Try: second, try out the new ideas yourself
      3. Evaluate: third, assess and draw conclusions from what is learned
      4. Expand: finally, expand on what you have learned so it impact to a greater extent

Truth does not reveal itself to idle spectators.” Matthew Crawford

Chapter 2 – Be Resolute: Act with Purpose and Empathy

Key Insight: “Effective change leaders combine resolute moral purpose with impressive empathy.”

Main Point of the Chapter: “If you take nothing else from this chapter, remember two things, (1) when you are on a crucial mission, stay the course against all odds; and (2) be impressively empathetic when it comes to opposition in the early stages.” (pg 30)

On Respect: “…give other people respect before they have earned it.” (pg 32)

Behaviour is Situational: “… if you want behavior to change you must change the situation.” (pg 45)

The 10 Year Rule: “It requires ten years of deep development to become an expert in anything.” (pg 46)

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset:

  • Fixed Mindset – belief that some are superior and some are inferior… And there is very little I can do to improve my own abilities. Failure is related more to capability then to effort. Circu stances control my output.
  • Growth Mindset – belief that we lern and improve through practice. Mistakes and failures are leading endeavors not failures.
  • Leaders Charge: fight to ensure that both I and my organization are growth minded… Otherwise change is impossible.

Incredible Summary: “The effective change leader helps the organization focus and learn over time.” (pg 48)

Other Nuggets Explored in this Chapter:

  • Necessity of a specific moral purpose
  • Necessity of a small number of core priorities formulates a specific vision
  • Pay extremely close attention to public perception, both internally and externally
  • Delegate authority as well as responsibility
  • Beleive that the mission is so critical that “failure is impossible”!
  • Numerous stories and case studies

Chapter 3 – Motivate the Masses: Experience is Believing

Key Insight:  “Realized effectiveness is what motivates people to do more.”

People are generally incredulous (when contemplating a new idea), never really trusting new things unless they have tested them by experience.” Machiavelli, 1515

Motivation: “Helping people accomplish sowing that they have never accomplished before causes motivation to increase deeply.” (pg 52)

4 Conditions for Intrinsic Motivation (Daniel Pink):

      1. Strong Sense of Purpose
      2. Increasing Capacity
      3. Degree of Autonomy
      4. Collective Camaraderie

The Leaders Charge: “…create the experieinces that turn out to be motivating because people find them emotionally meaningful relative to their values and their ability to fulfill them.” (pg 56)

Motion Leadership (9 insights from another Fullan book called “Motion Leadership”)

  1. Relationships First
  2. Beware of Fat Plans
  3. Behaviors Before Beliefs
  4. Honor the Implementation Dip
  5. Communication During Implementation is Paramount
  6. Learn About Implementation During Implementation
  7. Excitement Prior to Implementation is Fragile
  8. Take Risks and Learn
  9. It’s Okay to Be Assertive

Leadership Rating Form: Fullan offers and incredible rating rubric to help the change leader assess effectiveness.  After an extensive exploration of each of the 9 insights, the reader is encouraged to reflect on his or her own effectiveness and determine appropriate next steps.

Galvanizing Motivation:

  1. Do something (let people experience it)
  2. Focus on developing skills
  3. Acquisition of skills leads to clarity
  4. Steps 1-3 stirs intrinsic motivation (if the idea is good)
  5. Intrinsic motivation equals ownership
  6. Collaboration with others equals shared ownership
  7. Persist no matter what (being flexible as you learn
  8. Summary of Why it Works: Realized effectiveness is the catalyst. “It works because the group develops capacity and begin to beleive in themselves as they see the results.” (pg 83)

Other Nuggets Discussed in the Chapter:

  • How to “unleash greatness”
  • Leadership insights from the Mayo Clinic
  • Innovation myths
  • Synthesis of Change Leader framework with PLC concepts championed by the Dufour’s
  • Reasons why RTT is bound to fail
  • Explanation of the decline of US system compared with the global rankings (from 1st 30 years ago to 24th today)

Chapter 4 – Collaborate to Compete: Multiply Capacity and Win

Key Insight: “Collaborative competition is the yin and yang of successful change. Collaborate and compete.”

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.” Eric Hoffer

Elements of Collaborative Culture:

  1. Focus: Set as all number of core goals
  2. Form a guiding coalition
  3. Aim for collective capacity building
  4. Work on individual capacity building
  5. Reap benefits of collaborative competition

What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.” Chip and Dan Heath (pg 91)

The Need for a Few Core Ideas: “Because when core ideas are pursued collectively, day after day, they generate deeper, consistent practices across the organization.” (pg 94)

The Goal of A Collaborative Culture: “…not that employees all do the the work for a resolute leader, but rather that they become collectively engaged in work that is also meaningful to them.” (pg 94)

System Wide Growth in Ontario Education:

  1. Consistency of Message
  2. Monitoring of Progress
  3. Corrective Action

Other Nuggets in this Chapter:

  • How to “unleash greatness”
  • Leadership insights from the Mayo Clinic
  • Innovation myths
  • Synthesis of Change Leader framework with PLC concepts championed by the Dufour’s
  • Reasons why RTT is bound to fail
  • Explanation of the decline of US system compared with the global rankings (from 1st 30 years ago to 24th today)

Chapter 5 – Learn Confidently: Change Requires Confidence (true confidence requires humility)

Key Insight: – “Change leaders are more confident than the situation warrants but more humble than they look.”

This chapter essentially highlights for things a Change Leader must do in combination as an individual learner. They are as follows:

1) Use Your Brain:

  • When in doubt, examine your practice and that of others
  • The concept of neuroplasticity means your brain can grow and change… Leverage this
  • Actual change is more likely to occur if you are engaged in doing something
  • Be deliberate about your practice (see all previous chapters…)
  • Never stop learning

2) Cultivate a Growth Mindset (in yourself and others):

  • Become an expert in fostering a growth mindset
  • Kill every vestige of the fixed mindset in your organization
  • Growth Minded Attitude: “Not only where they not discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing. They thought they were learning.” (pg 115)
  • Leader as Learner and Protector: “Learn to say I don’t know when you actually don’t know the answer, and learn to take the blame even if it isn’t your fault so that you don’t hang people out to dry. In this way, the leader demonstrates that he or she is both a learner and a protector.” (pg 117)

3) Be Indispensable (in the the right way):

  • Three Factors for Organizational Longevity
  • Collaborative Practices
  • Supportive Infrastructure
  • Building Future Leadership

4) Maintain a High Level of Confidence:

  • “(Effective leaders are) smart enough to act like they are In charge but wise enough not to let their power go to their heads or take themselves to seriously.” (pg 121)
  • Embrace the concept of learning and learning forward together
  • “When you let your practice and the practice of others who appear to be doing better than you drive your thinking and associated actions, you are entering new territory.” (pg 123)

Chapter 6 – Know Your Impact: Drowning in Data, Thirsty for Knowledge

Key Insight: “Statistics are a wonderful servant and an appalling master.”

The Disease: Distraction

    • Missing the Obvious: “We don’t see even the obvious things unless we are looking for them.” (pg 128)
    • Impact of Distraction: “The way we will is eroding our capacity for deep, sustained, perceptive attention – the building blocks of intimacy, wisdom and cultural progress.” (pg 129)
    • Damaged Thinking & Emotive Skills: “It is not only deep thinking that requires a calm, attentive mind.  It is also empathy and compassion… The higher emotions emerge from neural processes that are inherently slow.” (pg 130)

The Need: “Change leaders need to focus on a small number of quantative and qualitative measures of impact and use these as a core part or the strategy of moving even further.” (pg 131)

This section ends with a list of 11 different aspects and impacts of the disease of distraction.

 

The Cure: Fullan offers 7 cures for the distorted and distracted brain. Each of the following cures is explored in depth in this chapter and is well worth dissecting in detail.

  1. Practice humility by admitting mistakes
  2. Tighten the action-feedback loop
  3. Establish a culture of openness and critical feedback
  4. Focus on a few core priorities and do them well
  5. Develop and hone your skills for getting to know yourself
  6. introduce and honor the humble checklist
  7. Celebrate success after it happens, not before

The brain on it’s own is naive.  It literally suffers from knowing a lot but not being able to identify what is best in a given situation.” (pag 133)

Other Nuggets in this Chapter:

  • The impact of technology on our capacity for attention
  • Synthesis of current research around the impact of an “online” world
  • The problem with multi-tasking
  • Case study of the Ontario Education systems 2 phase improvement framework
  • A fantastic checklist for change leaders
  • Three signs of misery at work (Lencioni): anonymity, irrelevance, immeasurement

Chapter 7 – Sustain Simplexity: Just Right Simple

Key Insight: “Simplexity is salvation for an intricate world.”

Definition of Simplexity: “Neither to simple no to complicated.” (pg 156)

This chapter is essentially a list of axioms the change leader lives by in the effort to and a summary of each of the 7 key insights the book is based around.

Axioms:

  • Start with your practice
  • Change leaders “show up”
  • Change leaders never give up
  • Change leaders know that talk is cheap
  • Collaboration is crucial
  • Confidence in the face of overwhelming challenge is essential
  • When you know what you are looking for… Any task becomes more manageable
  • Avoid making things to simple or unecessarily abstract and complex

Key Insight Summaries: See pages 152-154 for an excellent paragraph long summary of each chapter.

The Book in a Sentence: “The key message is that practice, especially deliberative practice, drives better practice.


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