The Skills of the Change Master

by Joe Flower

International Copyright 1996 Joe Flower All Rights Reserved
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Turning to the outside

Big Vision

Hang time



Aligning the center



Shifting focus

Acting in uncertainty

High overwhelm quotient

Internal drive

Capacity for paradox

Market sense

The fundamental skills of the rest of the decade and the opening of the new century will be the skills of dealing with change. They are the skills of jazz, not of chamber music, of basketball rather than baseball, of poker rather than chess, skills of dealing with situations that are in constant flux, situations about which you do not know enough to make a decision - yet you must constantly make decisions, and even failing to decide is itself a decision, irrevocable, the lost time unrecoverable, the opportunity evaporated.

Can you do this? Do you have the skills? Are you ready?

They don't
teach these skills
in school

They don't teach these skills in school. I haven't seen a real curriculum for them anywhere. For some people, the skills of dealing with change are difficult, and do not come easily. I am convinced, though, that they can be learned by anybody.

What are these skills? If you ask people to name the skills of change, most would mention a certain openness to new ideas and realities, a certain flexibility, a willingness to try something different, to be different in some way. And they would be right: openness and flexibility are certainly prerequisites. But they are insufficient. Here we will be looking at what I would call the "deep skills" of dealing with change. I invite you to ask yourself, "Am I good at this? Can I think of some recent time when I exhibited this skill? Or a time when I needed this skill, and didn't have it? How could I get better at this? How could my organization get better at this?"

The 18 skills of change:


These are not easy skills to acquire, if they are not a natural part of your toolkit already. You can't pick them up in a few hours at a conference, or by reading a few books. There is no correspondence course. Re-organizing yourself for change is less like a Berlitz language class and more like a life path. Re-fitting your organization for change is not a matter of "Get me a new corporate culture while you are up." It calls for a long-term passionate commitment to becoming a learning organization, and a willingness on the part of everyone in management to follow that path even when it gets uncomfortable, difficult, and surprising. In the end, you do not have a choice. Brittle organizations, and brittle managers, will not survive these times.

Together, these skills form a way of seeing the world, a way of being, that is profoundly different from the conventional skills of a manager in a slow-moving organization in an evolving industry. But they are the same skills that we need to be good parents, mates, citizens - and good humans - in a fluid world of dazzling and frustrating change.

How change works | Change happens| The five fundamentals of change | What is your goal? | Core concepts| Skill-building resources | Touching what is, touching what might be | Paradox | Heading for the open space | Habits of mind | Scenario spinning | Coming out | Breaking the trance | Finding a new path | Why it's important | Four quadrants | Psychological roots | Change Processes | Main Page