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Sacred cows make the best burgers: Developing Change-Ready people

and organizations

By Robert Kriegel & David Brandt

Publisher: Warner Brothers Date of Publication: 1997 ISBN: 0446672602 Number of Pages: 336

About the Author(s)

One of the most in demand business speakers, Dr. Robert Kriegel teaches bold, innovative, out of the box strategies for keeping ahead of the changes, challenges and competition in todays dynamic marketplace. Author of the international bestseller: If it aint broke...BREAK IT!, Dr. Kriegel has been called by U.S. News & World Report one of this countrys leading authorities in the field of change and human performance. His book, Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers, made Business Weeks bestseller list. His latest book about innovation and out of the box thinking is How to Succeed in Business Without Working so Damn Hard. Kriegel has been a commentator on National Public Radios Marketplace program, did two specials for PBS, and appeared on Oprah and Donny Deutschs, The Big Idea. (source:

David Brandt, Ph.D. is a nationally renowned speaker and psychologist, and the author of Don't Stop Now, You're Killing Me.

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Executive Summary (central idea)

In the world of business, sacred cows are a reference to an outdated belief system, an assumption th at has survived through the ages, a practice, system or strategy that is resistant to change and prevents responsiveness to new possibilities. Companies are often wary of changing course from the path that once made them successful. But in todays economy, one that is constantly changing and is driven by opportunities that are coming in from all directions, coupled with tough competition and demanding customers, making room from creative ideas and new thinking is essential. The authors, in this book, repeatedly point out that one has to prepare an organization and its people for change and through their book guide leaders through the five stages that are required to bring about this change. Stage 1: Rounding up the sacred cows Stage 2: Developing a change-ready environment Stage 3: Turning resistance into readiness Stage 4: Motivating people for change Stage 5: Developing seven personal change-ready traits.

Stage 1: Rounding up the sacred-cows

The hunt for inertia which is preventing change involves challenging old beliefs and assumptions and identifying those that have outlived their utility. One of the critical aspects to this step is seeking out people and involving them in the hunt for these outmoded aspects of working. The person most effective in this role is one who has an attitude to challenge everything. This could be anybody a senior executive, a mid level worker or even a fresher who has not yet been indoctrined the companys way of working. Create an entire organization of such people who can then go on to become the drivers behind a powerful and creative change-ready organization in the future. The best people to do this are those who are closest to the customers they know everything about the redundant and unnecessary work processes that are a hinderance in providing the best service to the customer. When such cross-functional teams are formed, the process becomes fun and productive. Go the extra step and recruit your customers into the process. They are the best hunters and will bring a reality check to your assumptions. Everyone should be given the opportunity to complain and criticize. These are great opportunities to spot the sacred-cows hiding in the day to day processes. When several employees point out that a particular process is a waste of time, chances are there is something worth investigating

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there. As a part of the cleanup review all the daily tasks and activities and classify them as bulls or cows. Bulls are those processes that help you respond quickly and effectievely to change and new opportunities unlike the cows which are just in the way. Have a reward system to motivate people to be effective hunters. You can put the cross-functional teams to good use by getting them to spot duplications, repetetive and costly processes across the organization. For every practice or process, dig deep into the why?. Certain practices that were relevant in the past may no longer be meaningful. Finding out how the practice originated would go a long way to identifing a hidden cow. Determine the reason and relevance of practices and processes that have been handed over to teams as a part of knoweldge transfer and check if another person/team can do the job better. A reality check may reveal that the task can be done better by fewer individuals or maybe even outside specialists. But most importantly, these hunts should be fun and should not be perceived as witch-hunts within the organization. Keep the spirit alive with light irreverence, teamwork, humour, creativity and motivation.

Hunt the paper cow

Hunt out and eliminate all those prinouts which do not add value to the customer in terms of improving quality of service, improve the productivity of the organization or cut costs.

Hunt the meeting cow

In the new economy time is of the essence and there is a cost associated with each minute that is wasted in marathon meetings. One the ways to eliminate this waste of time is to have a restricted time limit for meetings. Other options include having meetings standing up and even coming up with a meeting meter. This dashboard can display the cost of the meeting in real time based on the salaries of the participants, room and equipment rental charges. A technographer can also be employed one who can keep typing up notes which are projected onto a display that is clearly visible to everyone. This helps to keep people focussed on the meeting leading to a faster consensus.

Hunt the speed cow

The common mantra these days is to execute faster and faster. As with anything done without proper preparation simply increasing the speed of doing something leads to disasters. Workers health, productivity and quality of the product all suffer as a consequence. There is a rule in professional sports which says that a passionate 90% will yield better results than a panicked 110%. The way to hunt down this problem is to keep an open unstructured time in the day to relax, reflect or meditate. This will enable people to sharpen their intuition, self-discovery and self awareness. Allowing time for fun and joy breaks to the employees is the easiest way to achieve this.

Hunt the expert cow

Typically organziations depend on experts in various domains to lead the company into the future. The irony in this is that more often than not, these experts are stuck in the old ways of doing things that they have acquired expertise in.

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A popular story goes that in 1950, a small research firm Haloid, offered IBM the rights to market and sell their new technological breakthrough called the 914 paper copier. IBM asked one of the world leading consulting experts the firm Arthur D. Little to evaluate the products potential. Three months of detailed evaluation later the experts reported back to IBM that they did not see a market for the new product. The entire market was expected to be not more than 5000 units, because of the popularity and low cost of carbon paper! A decade later, Haloid became Xerox and generated billions of dollars through sales of the copier. In the constantly chaging environment of the market place, it plays more to think like a novice beginner than an expert. Where experts see problems, beginners only opportunities. One way to kill the problem of having too many experts is to hire outsiders who can bring in a fresh approach to the issues. Change employee assignments and roles regulalry to prevent someone from getting too complacent at what they are doing. Tell new comers, who are open minded to design new products and services and create an environment where asking stupid questions is okay. It also pays to look outside the immediate field for solutions. Sometimes the best solutions are found in the most unlikely of places.

Hunt the cash cow

Many organizations make the mistake of bleeding their cash-cow companies dry. In this dynamic environment it would be suicidal to rest on past laurels. Conventional processes taught that companies must try to look for a niche and then capture that market. In todays every changing business landscape this would be difficult since an seemingly unrelated change in another industry might wipe out the entire market overnight. Companies that use their success as a springboard to garner greater accomplishments do much better than those that pigeonhole themselves into an industry. Organizations should never be satisfied and should strive to redefine ones identity based on customer perception.

Hunt the competitve cow

Sometimes you can win by changing the entire competitive landscape. For this one must be able to rethink all the rules of the game and do business in a way that is very different from the accepted norms of how it is to be done. Dominos Pizza transformed the landscape of the pizza business by figuring out how to deliver a pizza to the doorstep in under thirty minutes while everyone else was focussing on ways to get people to come to their shops. Similarly Gary Tharaldson, the largest U.S motel developed transformed his chosen business by going against the then prevelant notion that motels should be large. He went and built motels designed for small family ownership in locations where other moteliers didnt even dream of going. The rest as they is, is history.

Hunt the customer cow

Meeting the expectations of the customer is just the start of the relationship with them. By hunting this cow you accept that just enough is not good enough. You should work on delighting your customers by surprising them offer them services that they did not expect. Step into their shoes and understand

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what they really want. Make a difference to their lives by providing out of box solutions to their problems.

Hunt the low price cow

A popular notion in business is that customers want a low price for everything and that a loss leader strategy is always successful. Customers want more than just a low price, they want true value for their service. California Pizza is a perfect example of this they dont sell pizzas cheap but they are hugely successful because they provide their customers value for the money spent.

Hunt the no mistakes cow

The no-mistakes credo established to improve work practices and product quality has the counter productive impact that people are afraid to take risks. When people become over cautious innovation, creativity and orginality suffer. To remove this impediment to success foster a culture where experiments are encouraged. Recognize that mistakes are a natural outcome of these experiments. Good attempts should also be rewarded. When the culture does not penalize each failure, the people are more than willing to come up with new solutions and ways to surprise the customer. Mistakes should be seen as a part of the learning process and a ameans to think through the issue again and form a new strategy. The criticial part here is to learn to distinguish between the careless sloppy mistakes that comes from lack of preparation or confusion and the ones that emnate from calculated risks from moving into unchartered territory.

Hunt the Work-till-you-drop cow

In popular opinion, working hard for long hours is equated with success. This is one sacred cow that is completely untrue. The typical consequences of overwork is burnout. A tired mind leads to more errors and eventually to a lack of creativity. There is a depletion that is not just physical but mental and spiritual as well often leading to compromised personal lives. When people are over-tasked through unrealistic goals, they might end up cheating to make their numbers look good. Companies are increasingly becoming aware of this problem and offer employees a variety of options flexible work schedules, mini-holidays, extended weekends etc allowing them the required downtime to recuperate and recover.

Stage 2: Developing the change-ready environment

People unfortunately inherently resist any attempt to introduce change into a process they are following. Change is always uncomfortable, unpredicatable and seen as damaging to the established

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way of doing things. The challenge is to prepare people for the change. Organizations fail at this point, because often they introduce the change and work on getting the buy-in later. The key thus is to create an environment in which people are open to innovation and ideas. This environment will foster trust and be change-ready. Caring emnates from treating employees with care and respect and aknowledging their effort and contribution. In order to facilicate change, people need to have full faith and trust in their leaders. When management treats the workforce with respect and understanding and keeps their promises, people are positive about change and they are more enagaged in the process. However what people underestimate is how delicate trust is it takes a lifetime to build and only a fraction to break. Building Trust Leaders must develop the habit of walking the talk. Attitudes and actions must be consistent with their words. This will build a culture of openness and honesty which will foster the feeling of trust. Communicating is a very important of this aspect and listening is half the story. Having an open communication mechanism and being frank about things are essential to developing a change-ready environment. To get employees engaged in the process and to build a culture of trust, leaders must focus on the we rather than the me. We is inclusionary whereas I is exclusionary. Leaders who have the guts to accept mistakes and share the credit are appreciated the most and have the trust of those working for them. Leaders should invest in a leap of faith by caring for their employees instead of just ordering them around. Respect does not mean that you have to smile all the time and tolerate all kinds of mistakes. The real meaning of respect is that you take the effort to understand other persons point of view instead of just critiizing it. Part of this process is also figuring out how to recognize employee efforts. One does not need to have formal programs, even a quick note saying good job goes a long way. A quick voice or email message each day, a quick compliment in the passing, a pat on the back all go a long way towards making employees more trusting and participative in the change process.

Stage 3: Turning resistance into readiness

The real reasons behind why people resist change are they feel powerless over the impending change. Having to move out of ones comfort zone and having to exert more effort while not really being able to see the full benefit are some of the other reasons why people ususally resist change. One of the things that organizations miss out on is that the effect of change is a very personal thing. Thus organizations must understand the individual reasons for opposing change. The various resistor types are: Heel Draggers: They will not say no to the proposed change but will effectively try to kill it through non-cooperation. Saboteurs: Like heel-draggers they too will not oppose the proposed change, but they are more aggressive in preventing it and will create obstacles like witholding information from those that need it or introducing bugs in software to prevent a timely delivery of a project. Fence sitters: They are passive resistors who slow down the change process by taking a long time to convert. They will sit on the fence and monitor the prevaling sentiment among the work force before taking a position themselves.

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Ostriches: These are people who pretend everything is normal and that the proposed changes will disappear if they ignore it. Dissenters: These are people who are open about their opinion and offer logical and legitimate reasons about why they are opposing a particular change. Antagonists: These are loud and vocal dissenters. They are usually not willing to listen or compromise and oppose change just because it is being proposed.

For change to go through, the organization must figure out how to deal with each of these types. Heeldraggers and Saboteurs must be flushed out through gripe sessions. To win over the fence sitters, provide them with convincing and persuasive information to reassure them. It is important to get to these before the antagonists muddy the waters with their arguments. Win over the ostriches by getting them involved in the process of implementing change. Dissenters are the most useful. Instead of cutting them off, include their ideas and show that you value their input. And finally be firm with antagonists. Cut them off and dont give them a chance to air their opinions.

Stage 4: Motivating people to change

When people are motivated to do something they will be willing to do all the extra legwork required to pull off a difficult transition to something new. Without motivation and commitement, the will to take the risk and go the extra mile when required will be absent. There are four main keys to motivating people: Urgency: Create platforms based on the event that is behind the need for urgent change. Be on the lookout for natural leaders in the organization who can implement the required change to address the problem. Inspire: Once the fire is lit with the sense of urgency that you have instilled, stoke with by providing the people an inspiring vision that will give them the courage to take risks, challenge rules and never give up. Ownership: Give people the power and information they need to make decsions, but also hold them accountable for their results. Set and clarify expectations with teams to ensure that everyone is on the same page on the issue and the way to tackle it. Competent people will rise up to the level of responsibility handed out to them, so dont just delegate elevate and then make them accountable. Rewards and Recognition: Have a policy where you reward not just the successes but also the good attempts. This will encourage positive risk-taking among the people. Reward the team nothing inspires people more than being rewarded as a part of a team. The rewards should be both intrinsic and extrinsic. Money, promotions should be combined with recognition, flexibility, freedom of operation and tolerance for creativity.

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Stage 5: Developing change-ready traits

Change readiness is reflected when people are excited about the change that is being planned not just reacting to what is happening around them. To create an organization that is ready for change, the long held beliefs must be challenged, an environment of trust and caring built up, and finally people inspired and motivated to bring about the change. People who are ready for change display the following characteristics: Resourcefulness: These people are able to make use of the available resources and tackle any situation that arises. They will come up with innovative solutions to mee the requirements of the moment. Optimism: These people are not deterred by obstacles that they face in the process of carrying out the projects to bring about the change. Adventerousness: These people like to take on the challenges that changes bring about. They are inherently great innovators and creators. Drive: They are extremely passionate about what they do and are determined. Nothing appears impossible to these people when they are on the job. Adaptability: These people are flexible and adapt quickly to new circumstances. They can also bounce back from adverse situations with minimal trauma. Confidence: People who are change-ready have high levels of self-esteem. They approach every situation with the firm belief that they can make it work for them. Change does not threaten them and they treat failures as opportunities to learn. Tolerance for ambiguity: These people are able to function well even when all the factors and variables are not clear. Their decisions are not knee-jerk or forced even when faced with constantly changing circumstances.

Why Change fails:

When too much is expected in too short a time, what results is diminished quality, poor communication and zero innovation. When there is an imbalance between the challenges brought about in the change proposed and the resources or competencies available, panic results. People when pushed into the panic zone are not able to function effectively and the change actually becomes counterproductive. The opposite of this is when there are too many resources available and too little change. This results in lethargy and pushes people into the drone zone.

The last word:

In order to ensure a successful transition, change should be implemented in a progressive fashion sequentially. Keep doing a zone check at regular intervals. Rate the various variables at play the degree of challenge involved in the change, the steepness of the learning curve, the resources available for the chang like the team size, their competence for the tasks proposed, energy levels, motivation, available time, technology and clarity of information. Rotate people across tasks and plan appropriate levels of down time to let the team members recharge. Assign the tired team members to something less demanding and then bring them back when they are ready to get into the fray again.

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