The Entrepreneurial Engineer

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Change the World

My colleague Ray Price (see Illinois Leadership Initiative here) recommended that I read Robert Quinn's Change the World: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Extraordinary Results, and I did so this past weekend. There is a good bit of fear and talk of change at the university, but top-down strategic planning efforts are quite easily thwarted by a conservative faculty that does not see any urgency in change. Quinn recommends an 8-step Advanced Change Theory that he claims overcomes the inertia of a settled "normal" perspective within an organization. Drawing on such all-star transformational change agents as Jesus, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, the theory recommends the following:
    1. Envision the productive community
    2. First look within
    3. Transcend fear
    4. Embrace the hypocritical self
    5. Embody a vision of the common good
    6. Disturb the system
    7. Surrender to the emergent process
    8. Entice through moral power
All of the chapters and elements of the theory made sense to me, but I especially appreciated the embrace of the hypocritical self. In trying to institute change in the organizations I am a part of and in myself, I am always confronted by the gap between the ideal I am attempting to achieve and the reality of what I am able to accomplish (with myself and others). Quinn suggests that this is a universal and that even when we are effective change agents, the gap remains, and further efforts are always necessary. I have sometimes been concerned that my inability to achieve long-term near-ideal change labels me as a phony, a hypocrite, but Quinn suggests that this is one of the prices of attempting change. If you don't want to feel hypocritical, don't try to change, but to paraphase an aphorism of love Quinn might suggest that it is bettter to have tried to change and been hypocritical than to never have attempted change at all.

In short, I give Change the World three stars. Read and overthrow the established order today.


  • Quinn's book is one of the most meaningful leadership books I have ever read. In addition to the eight steps of Advanced Change Theory, I find the typology of four change strategies helpful.
    Level 4: The Transforming Strategy (ACT) - Method: Transcend self; emphasis on emergent reality.
    Level 3: The Participating Stragtegy - Method: open dialogue: emphasis on relationship.
    Level 2: The Forcing Strategy - Method - leveraging behavior; emphasis on authority.
    Level 1: The Telling Strategy - Method: raitional persuasion; emphaisis on facts.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 10:07 PM  

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