Book Review – Choosing Change by Walter McFarland and Susan Goldworthy

Choosing ChangeIntroduction

Choosing Change by Walter McFarland and Susan Goldsworthy is not your typical change management book. It looks at change from two perspectives. First the individual and then the organization and it argues for the premise that before individuals who lead change can implement change successfully they themselves have to change. Using the Five Ds framework of Disruption, Desire, Discipline, Determination, and Development, the authors outline some key principles necessary for both individual and organizational change.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part written by Susan Goldsworthy, an Executive Coach and former Olympic finalist is titled The Change – Focused Leader, and in five chapters it applies the Five Ds framework to individual change. The second part of the book written by Walter McFarland, a leadership consulting executive and Chairman of ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) is called The Change – Focused Organization, and follows a similar pattern to the first part, but  from an organizational perspective.

This is a well lauded book with 25 positive comments given in the book. It has a five star rating on Amazon US and UK currently. Largely the book is based on evidence from interviews and research, especially brain research, and a lot of information from previous writings is also included. It is written in simple and clear language and broken up with quotes, real life stories and frameworks. By my opinion it is a delightful book to read. With just 238 pages and 10 chapters, it is a small book with a lot of useful information. Following is a brief review of each chapter.

Introduction – The Choice of Choosing Change: This is not a chapter but an introduction to the whole book, and it is useful to read this part of the book because it will give you a preview of what the book contains. As stated previously the book is based on the five Ds framework. A summary description of the five Ds is given here. Also there is some information on how neuroscience is informing our understanding of change, a topic which is explored in more detail later in the book.

Part One – The Change Focused Leader

This part of the book focuses on change from an individual perspective.

Chapter One – Disruption: What Conscious Choice Will You Make: This chapter focuses on the first of the Ds, which is Disruption. Here disruption is defined as, “a problem or action that interrupts something and prevents it from continuing.” The key argument in this chapter is that disruption enables people to change, because when people face disruption they have to ask the question, “Can I afford to ignore this?” The chapter starts out with the story of Sara Matthews, CEO of Dun & Bradstreet. The story of how Sara dealt with a personal case of disruption is discussed. Following the story various topics are then dealt such as disruption is an opportunity to choose, making a conscious choice and separating personality from patterns. In discussing these topics, how our brain handles disruption or the threat of change is covered and ways to train ourselves to make the right choice.

Chapter Two – Desire: What Do You Really Want To Change?: The second D is Desire and the story of Marc Herremans, a Belgian athlete is used to illustrate the power of desire. A number of important points are raised in this chapter. For instance the power of belief to achieve goals, not letting your inner critic limit you, the importance of using visualization techniques, taking daily steps outside of your comfort zone and using symbols to represent your desire. There are a number of frameworks worth taking note of. STAMINA is an acronym that spells out seven features of effective goal setting and they are: Specific, Time-Stamped, Achievable, Measurable, Inspiring, Narratable, and Actionable. The Beliefs House framework as the author implied is helpful for increasing your awareness of your own beliefs and how they may be helping or hindering the achievement of your desire. Summarily this chapter is clear about the fact that where there is no desire there can be no change.

Chapter Three – Discipline – What Are Your Small Steps to Big Success?: The next D and logical step on from Desire is Discipline. The chapter opens with this statement, “Discipline can be one of our toughest challenges in achieving any goal. Our  desire may be clear, but applying the necessary discipline takes energy, focus and considerable effort.” Using the story of Pierre Deplanck, a former CEO of Guardian Health and Beauty in Singapore, the author explains why discipline is important to achieving change. Here are some key principles discussed in the chapter:

  • Discipline is a practice, the more you do it, the better you get
  • Break down your goal into small achievable daily steps
  • Eat food daily that is good for your brain.
  • Use mindfulness to reduce stress
  • Learn to relax so you can recharge your body

Chapter Four – Determination – How Can You Embrace the Setbacks?: The author opens by writing that, “Determination is absolutely  necessary if you are to overcome obstacles in your change journey“. As good as discipline is, when personal problems occur in a change journey you will need determination to continue. The story of Alan Murray, CEO of NextFoods is used to explain the importance of determination to change. Information in this chapter advises us to build resilience by improving our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, learn to be patient and understand that confusion and doubt is part of the process.

Chapter Five – Development – How Will You Keep Growing and Who Will Help You?: This is the last chapter in this part of the book and it focuses on Development, and this challenges us to approach life and its changes with a mindset of learning and growth. According to the author, “The essence  of development for change lies in asking yourself the question: how can I continually learn and grow? Adopting a mindset of continuous improvement is the best way to maximize your potential for continuous success.”  The story of Tom Miller, founder of Miller Company is used to exemplify the important of continuous development. Advice given in this chapter include:

  • Avoid perfectionism
  • Cultivate a growth mindset
  • Embrace feedback
  • Practice gratitude, express what you are grateful for
  • Find people who can support you

Part Two – The Change-Focused Organization

Chapter Six – Disruption – Balancing Challenge and Opportunity: Organizations just like individuals experience disruption. 21st competition between organizations is a big reason for such disruption. Organizations that stand still may very soon seize to exist if they don’t learn to handle competitive disruption effectively. The story of Kimo Kippen, Chief Learning Officer at Hilton Wordwide is used to illustrate disruption at an organizational level. The author writes about the characteristics of competitive disruptions and then goes on to give some recommendations for leading through disruptions. Also eight principles for leading revolutionary change are discussed.

Chapter Seven – Desire – Building Motivation to Change: Desire at the organizational level is about building a strong and sustainable desire for change in teams and the workforce. This is important because uniting people around a common desire for change helps to create positive energy and creates momentum for change. The story in this chapter is about Ron Kaufman, a consultant who was recruited to help raise service standards in Singapore in the 1990s. The author also discusses some very important principles here which are:

  • Traditional perspectives on building a desire for change
  • The rise of strategic communication
  • The neuroscience perspective on building a desire for change

All three contain information on how to help organizations build a desire for change. The chapter concludes with recommendations for actually building the desire to change.

Chapter Eight – Discipline – Coordinating Energy, Focus, and Effort: Discipline is already difficult at the individual level, the difficulty is probably magnified at the organizational level. According to the author, “Without discipline, revolutionary change efforts fail to sustain the desire that is necessary for true organizational change.” Three actions are recommended to build the kind of organizational discipline necessary to support revolutionary change:

  • Establish a change implementation team
  • Create a change implementation team
  • Build a cadre of change leaders

Chapter Nine – Determination – Coping with Setbacks: The author based on their own experience states that, “Setbacks are so common during organizational change  that we have invented a ‘best practice’ when consulting on large scale efforts. Before the change effort begins, we advise our clients to prepare themselves in two ways. We offer this advice to you now.” After sharing the story of Mary Slaughter, Chief Learning Officer of Sun Trust Banks, the author goes through the advice. Firstly the nature of setbacks is discussed and then recommendations for managing typical setbacks are covered under this topics:

  • Anticipate typical setbacks
  • Improve environmental sensing
  • Continually optimize the organizational environment
  • Manage your determination

Chapter Ten – Development – Learning Continuously About Change: The author opens with this statement, “Development is about ensuring continuous learning and growth – both in yourself and in your organization.” This last chapter is about the importance of development at an organizational level.  After discussing the story of Victoria Marsick who is a Professor at Columbia University to illustrate the importance of development, three recommendations on helping organizations develop the capability to continuously improve at carrying out organizational change are outlined. They are:

  • Enable learning in people
  • Enable learning in teams
  • Enable organization – wide learning

The book concludes with a short session titled Final Thoughts.

Overall this is a thoughtful book with lots of useful content. If you read it, you will most likely not use everything in it, but there are lots of information and tools that you can pick out and use, even on yourself. So read it and decide what is useful for you. I especially recommend the stories, frameworks and recommendations in the second part of the book.

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