The Future of Our Change Agent Blog

July 11, 2007 by

After a year and half and thousands upon thousands of visits, we have decided to maintain the change agent blog platform but publish infrequently. We assume that by the fall of this year, we will retire this blog. We want to thank all of those who joined in the conversation, participated in interviews and contributed to the success of this initiative.

Sapient Government Services is committed to thought leadership and we anticipate this is not the last blog we will launch. Stay tuned.

My sincere thanks to: Alexandra Hershey, Greg Golec, Mark Palfrey, Ryan Powell, Christina Frederick, and Tristan Becker for their contributions to this blog.

For a link to the paper that started the whole conversation please click here.


Creating an Organization That “Lives” Change

June 21, 2007 by

Adapting to a changing environment is a necessity for successful companies to compete over a long period of time. Companies that lack innovation, fail to accept risk, and refuse to set audacious goals cannot survive in today’s rapid-paced economy. In the article, “Leading Change-Creating an Organization That Lives Change,” Chris Musselwhite explains how effective leaders inspire others to embrace organizational change. Musselwhite believes that in order to lead other people to accept and “live” for change, it is imperative to understand that everyone reacts differently. Some people are confused and apprehensive of change and do their best to avoid it. Others find excitement in the uncertainty and opportunity that may arise from a changing environment. Once you understand these differences, it is easier to communicate and implement organizational change in ways that lead to fewer misunderstandings and complaints. A few months ago I blogged the book, Leadership on the Line: Surviving the Dangers of Leadership. This book also discusses ways to effectively lead change. Both the book and this article beleive change is improperly managed by most managers due to an unnecessary emphasis on the “change” itself, rather than a focus on the people involved. In an effort to help organizations understand the differences between people’s change-style preferences, Discovery Learning Inc. has taken the results from over 150,000 change-style assessments and grouped people into three different categories, according to the way they deal with change: Conservers, Pragmatists and Originators.

  • Conservers – Seen as being inflexible and resistant to change, conservers are actually open to change when it is presented incrementally under the organization’s traditional structure.
  • Pragmatists – These people make up roughly 51% of all managers in the business world, and seek for practical, functional solutions to problems. Always seeking an understanding for both sides of an argument, pragmatists appear to be accepting and flexible to change that is beneficial to the organization.
  • Originators – Entrepreneurs are often times considered originators because of their desire to challenge previously accepted assumptions and accept risk. Originators are visionaries who get excited about the opportunities that may arise from change.

As a leader, the key is to lean and understand your own change-style preferences, which helps dictate the way you should interact with people whose preferences are either similar or preferences. Once you do this, people will begin to value and accept change, resulting in a dynamic organizational atmosphere that “lives” for change. Can you think of anyone you know who is a Conserver? A Pragmatist? An Originator? Which one are you?

Thoughts or reactions? Please send them to us.

The Change Agents of Enterprise Architecture at NIH

June 12, 2007 by

In the world of Government change agents the role of what I term Functional Mavens is crucial to enacting transformational change. Mavens range from specialists in procurement to information technologists who bring an expertise to problem solving that can make or break the vision of Transformation Leaders.

Recently, my colleague, Masako Sho collaborated with Jack Jones, Acting Chief Information Officer and Helen Schmitz, Acting Chief IT Architect, both at the National Institutes of Health, to create a very innovative white paper on the topic of realizing the true value of EA.

The paper is a quick read with plenty of excellent visuals. If you are a change agent of any stripe, you must read this paper as all too often EA is considered a technical exercise when in fact it’s a business exercise with many user types.

The following is the executive summary of the paper: “How to Realize the True Value of Enterprise Architecture”

  • Provide users’ perspective to EA: Cater to the needs of people on the ground who use EA and benefit from it
  • Recognize the importance of learning before using: Remember that users need to get the overall picture before making use of EA. Make background information available, not just architecture standards
  • Present users with justifications for decisions: Explain why and how standards are defined to build trust and confidence in users
  • Show examples: Present how EA has been used and can be used to make it real for users
  • Support and encourage sharing of experience: Enhance EA content as well as the community by involving users to share their experiences

To read the paper and see the web portal that is creating a lot of buzz in the Federal EA community, please go to

Thoughts or reactions? Please send them to us.

Global Warming Spurs Innovation

June 8, 2007 by

It is hardly news that the global warming phenomenon is spurring innovation across the board. It ushered Al Gore into the documentary film-making realm, and has prompted widespread changes in other unexpected areas as well. In one recent development, several companies have promised to fight global warming by fertilizing the ocean with iron shavings. In theory, these shavings will spur a bloom of algae which absorbs carbon dioxide as is undergoes photosynthesis. Despite concerns about the science behind the idea, as well as the ability to measure its effectiveness, this is a prime example of the free market spurring innovation. Given that our planet is composed of 75% water, could this innovative idea actually yield significant results? For more details, see “Fertilizing Oceans to Save the Planet”.

Thoughts or reactions? Please send them to us.

A Trio of New Leaders are Reshaping the CEO Position

June 7, 2007 by

In the Wall St. Journal article titled, “After the Revolt, Creating a New CEO,” Alan Murray discusses emerging changes in how CEOs lead their organizations. He emphasizes the diminishing power that many companies are giving their executives, in response to the slew of executive firings and scandals that took place in 2005. Jim McNerney, CEO of Boeing Co., Mark Hurd, CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co., and Martin Sullivan, CEO of American International Group (AIG), each represent this new generation of power in corporate America, which Murray documents in grave detail in his new book, Revolt in the Boardroom.

In roughly two years, these three leaders have reshaped their companies, without the infinite amounts of power enjoyed by their predecessors. Some key changes these men have inspired include:

  • Corporate Transparency – Mr. McNerney was determined to expand Boeing’s corporate culture by eliminating closed-door discussions and backroom decision making. He wanted to emphasize organizational transparency in order to inspire collaboration and innovation. Mr. McNerney pointed out, “I’m just one of eleven with a point of view. I have to depend on my power to persuade.”
  • Pro-Environment – All three men have spent considerable efforts to show that they are good “corporate citizens.” For example, AIG set up a board committee to address public policy issues like climate change and energy conservation.
  • Lower-level Strategy – Mr. Hurd is a firm believer that the beauty is in the details, and began his reign as the CEO of HP by redefining the company’s corporate strategy; from high-level futuristic planning to a strategy process that moves seamlessly with operations. He says, “If strategy isn’t clearly driving ground-level operations, my argument is that you don’t have a strategy.”
  • Less Arrogance – Arrogance is detrimental character trait that leaders must abandon. By becoming more approachable, these men have inspired change using less authoritative power, and at the same time created a collaborative and innovative environment that taps into the potential of a large and diverse employee base.
  • These men are all change agents, and it will be interesting to see if other companies adopt similar executive-level strategies to Boeing, HP, and AIG. I hope they will, without waiting for yet another corporate scandal and CEO firing to shake things up.

    Thoughts or reactions? Please send them to us.