“I really need to make this change to become more productive. I have tried and I just don’t how to get it done.”

“We have a culture in our organization that I am not happy with and want to get it moving in a new direction. I have found a lot of internal resistance. Not malicious, more of an ingrained culture. How do I get started on the change process?”

Sound familiar? If you want a specific change in yourself or your work culture you have to be deliberate. Personal and organizational change takes energy. There is built in friction and resistance. Where do you start?

Let’s make this as simple as possible. Here is a perspective to consider.

  • Define what success looks like
  • Identify the driving forces for the change
  • Identify the resisting force for the change

This thought comes from Edgar and Charles Schein who have been studying corporate culture for years.

Make this an equation. In order to succeed, the drivers have to outweigh the resisters.

Personal Change Example

Delegation is an area I often find leaders wanting to change. In the example below picture yourself in the position of the leader wanting this change.

The starting point is to define the desired end state, which is usually broadly stated such as; You want to off-load some tasks and have less on your plate. This is too general. Here is something more specific. You want monthly financial reporting to be handled by someone else and you become a reviewer rather than doer.

Great, the end state and the change desired is specifically defined. Create more time for yourself by delegating preparation of the monthly financial reporting.

Now, define the driver(s) for this change? This may take a little more digging.

“Spend more time operating at the strategic level of the business rather than the tactical. I have to lose the feeling of being overwhelmed with tasks others are capable of completing.”

Next, what are the obstacles? What’s stopping the change?

“First, I’m a perfectionist. I think I’m the only one capable of accomplishing certain tasks correctly. Or, I haven’t put the effort into training someone in this area. Also, I resist delegating any responsibilities related to money and budget. I have trouble letting go of that responsibility.”

Great. A well-defined and detailed obstacle.

Last step, take an objective look and compare the drivers versus the obstacles. Which is greater. When the drivers outweigh the obstacles, action. When they don’t, inaction.

This sets the stage for the big picture. If you decide, handing over the responsibility of financial reporting is too risky, that change is not going to happen. Once the change decision is made, the details of what to change and how can be determined.

I personally experienced this at home recently. We have a storage unit that houses our seasonal decorations that I have been reluctant to empty. Until we were notified of a 20% increase in rent. Suddenly all the excuses could not justify my inaction. The detailed actions followed in quick succession. The change is underway.

Organizational Change

This works for organizational change as well. However, it will have significantly more detail. Also, when implementing organizational change, think culture change and increased complexity. Organizations have multiple cultures. There is the social culture – how people are treated.  The technical culture – how the work gets done. Along with different subcultures and even micro cultures embedded in areas of the organization; marketing, sales, engineering, accounting.

Defining the change and desired end state is typically easy for the leader. Defining the drivers slightly more difficult and defining the obstacles extremely challenging. Drivers can range from a feeling the CEO has to extreme market conditions.

Utilize this approach to initiate a change process. Investigate and specifically address the reasons for change. These are your drivers. Follow with an analysis of the obstacles. This forces leaders to explore the culture(s) of the organization, assess the scale of resistance (the obstacles), and the magnitude of the change task (the imbalance of drivers vs obstacles).

Do you understand the imbalance between the drivers of a desired change and the obstacles?

Yes. Then you understand the likelihood of successfully implementing that change.

Thank you for your confidence in Great Transitions Strategies to assist you in reaching your goals; personal, professional, and organizational.

This year we have served over 100 clients across a wide spectrum; executives and leaders in large and small corporations, the government, military, nonprofits, students, and veterans in transition. We coached teams and groups all focused on assisting them to reach their full potential.

Thank you for the opportunity to make a difference in your lives. 

Great Transitions Strategies will complete 6 years of business on January 2022 and I want to thank all who have made this possible.

  • Clients – Thank you for your trust to embark on challenging journeys together
  • Fellow coaches – Thank you for your partnership with Great Transitions Strategies, you have made us better. Participating in a number of coaching communities has proven to be the greatest contribution to our growth as a coach and Great Transitions Strategies.
  • Support team – Thank you to all the professionals for your support of Great Transitions Strategies; D3Corp, Freedom Makers, and The Gardner and Appel Group
  • My family – for the constant support on this journey to start and grow this business

You all have allowed the vision of Great Transitions Strategies to become a reality.

To inspire and motivate, individuals and organizations to understand, embrace, and live by their values, mission, and vision.

Happy Thanksgiving and Thank You for a Great Year!

“Mom I don’t remember what Daddy looks like.” Those were the words from a 3-year-old at the three-month mark into a six-month deployment.

A school calls home asking for a parent to come to school to pick up a middle schooler who is inconsolable. The other parent left on a deployment last night.

A service member comes home on Friday afternoon with the news their unit will be flying out on Monday morning at 2 AM and not sure when they will be coming home.

“The deployment is moved up by three months, I have two-weeks to get everything ready. I need help moving out of my apartment, putting everything in storage. We are working around the clock at the unit getting ready to embark on the ship and I have no time to deal with all this stuff.”

The above are glimpses into the lives of military families. “Thank you for your service” is an appreciated and welcomed gesture of appreciation for service members. However, just as in the above scenarios, the families left behind, bear incredible sacrifices.

On Veterans Day thank the family members for their service. Try an interesting experiment and ask the spouses, children, and parents of service members about their “time in service.” You may be amazed at the stories.

How would you handle moving yourself and two children under 5 from your current residence to a new one 1500 miles away to a new duty station? By the way you have two cars and do not know anyone.

The typical military family will move every 3 years with occasional moves after just one year because of orders to school or training. That makes for creating a new group of friends, children going to new schools, and spouses disrupting a career.

To create stability, some families choose to allow the service members to go to the 1-year school unaccompanied. Making the service member a “geographic bachelor.” That may allow a high schooler to graduate from high school or spouse to stay on their career path. Staying put in the current environment or moving for only one year both have sacrifices.

Here is an interesting exercise I use with folks to help them understand the challenges of being a military family member. Put yourself in the shoes of a spouse at any point of your life when your spouse could have served, typically ages 19-42. Think of your career status and age of your children and assess the following:

Your spouse leaves for a scheduled six-month deployment leaving on 15 Oct and coming home 15 April. Prior to deployment there is an approximately three-month training cycle with small deployments, long hours, and specialized training to get the unit ready for deployment. That makes 15 July the date for seeing an increased operational tempo.

On 15 October the unit departs. Think of the buildup of emotions and activity leading to the day the unit departs. Now think of and write a list of all the events; family, school, sports related, and professional that happened during the period you chose from 15 October to 15 April.

  • Holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day.
  • Family celebrations: birthdays, weddings, showers, engagements, or religious events
  • Children’s events: theater, sports seasons, music concerts, parent-teacher conferences
  • Add any special events specific to your family such as grandparents’ birthdays

Those are the big events. Now consider the daily interactions that are missed. In a week what are all things you do as a family. What would it feel like if you did all of those by yourself.

Families of veterans are true heroes.

This Veterans Day, thank a family member for their service.

Originally called Decorations Day started in 1866 where families put flowers on the graves of those lost in the Civil War, both Union and Confederate. That tradition continued for years and after World War I the country began honoring all service members killed in all wars.

In 1971 May 31st became Memorial Day, which is now celebrated the final Weekend in May.

Its purpose: to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

Growing up in a small town in northern New Jersey we always celebrated Memorial Day with a parade. My dad marched as a member of the American Legion and my brothers and I as little league players or cub scouts.

At the conclusion of the parade there was a wreath laying ceremony at Memorial Field. We also had a field named Addice Park in our town. I didn’t understand the ceremony or park name back then.

I do now. Addice Park is named in honor of Frank Addice, a Navy Corpsman killed in action in Vietnam at the age of 19. He is remembered by the naming of the field and his name is on “The Wall”. I had to go looking for that info.

Today I am taking the time to remember those I knew who have given the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country.

I have had the privilege of serving in the Marine Corps for 23 years after I graduated from the Naval Academy. Which gave me the opportunity to meet and serve with great Americans. At the Naval Academy there is a room in the main dormitory Bancroft Hall named Memorial Hall. The room is dedicated to honor all graduates lost while serving on active duty.

From my class of just over 960 graduates, we lost 13 classmates while they served on active duty. Some combat losses and many operational losses from training mishaps.

1st Lt David Nairn was killed in the Beirut Bombing in Lebanon, Sept 23, 1983. The start of the War on Terror. This Memorial Day there is a run in his name in Quantico, VA. Keeping his memory alive.

On September 11th, 2001 we lost 2 classmates, Captain Bob Dolan USN at the Pentagon and Michael McGinty attending a meeting in the World Trade Center.

The Naval Academy lost 14 alumni that day.

From 2001 to 2004 while a faculty member at the United States Naval Academy I had the privilege to get to know many future officers. Two that I had interacted with on a regular basis lost their lives fighting the War on Terror.

1st Lt Travis Manion, a Marine officer from the class of 2004 and 2nd Lt.  J.P. Blecksmith class of 2003. Both varsity athletes, Travis a wrestler and J.P. a football player. Both have foundations in their name.

The closest loss I experienced was on 23 August 1996 when an EA-6B aircraft from VMAQ-1 on a training mission in Yuma AZ crashed killing all four crew members. One of those crew members was Major Jack Bacheller, the Executive Officer. We had spent several years together as Lieutenants and Captains, attended the Naval Postgraduate School together, and were counterparts in sister squadrons. Our wives were friends and we lived a block away from each other on base at Cherry Point, NC.

All four aircrew are memorialized with a monument at Cherry Point, NC.

Sometimes it is hard to understand a loss until you are really close to it.

That’s why we have Memorial Day – to remember. In a country with over 230 million citizens and only 2 million active-duty members at one time, a small percentage of the populace has direct contact with the military and far less, direct contact with military families who lost a member. The citizenry is not close to the loss.

Memorial Day does not have to be one day out of the year. As the year goes on take a little time to understand the losses. Pass on the true meaning of Memorial Day and learn something about the person and family behind the name on that memorial in your home park, that road or bridge you drive over every day.

Make every day a Memorial Day – Take Time to Remember.

If you are a regular gym goer, January is your least favorite month. It is filled with folks who are making a start on their New Year’s resolution. By February normalcy is back and the few who succeeded in their resolution are now regulars. Most missed the mark on their resolution.

What is your record on New Year’s resolutions? Gallup has documented it at less than 50%. Is there a better way?

I was introduced to the book One Word That Will Change Your Life by one of the authors, Jimmy Page. The concept is to replace resolutions and goals with “One Word” to give yourself the focus, clarity, and passion for pursuing what you are after.

In my coaching practice I constantly seek methods for clients to gain clarity. Clarity with their vision, where they are, and the path they are traveling. Why? Because, clarity brings out the best in individuals and provides focus for their purpose.

Does the “One Word” process work? I have personally succeeded and witnessed clients  who have significant success. The “One Word” was a constant reminder of personal and professional purpose. Think, the needle on a compass.

So how does it work? Here is a quick summary of the process with my interpretation.

The first of three stages:  Look inward. Choosing your word takes some time and reflection. Separate yourself and reflect on what is important to you and why. For me I call this “My Intent”. What is my intent for this year?

This process could take several weeks revisiting the topic. The authors use three questions as a guide:

  • What do I need?
  • What is in my way?
  • What do I need to let go?

The next phase is to look upward to what your spirituality tells you. For some that will be based on your religion for others it is where you get your spiritual energy. This reflection on my purpose coupled with looking inward reveals several words for me that I then narrow down to one.

Choose your word and write it down: __________________

Last is looking outward, living your word and putting it into action.

Organizational Fitness consists of four parts.

  1. Planning – The foundation of your fitness – it sets your direction
  2. Communication – The cardiovascular fitness of your organization – provides organizational stamina
  3. Execution – The in-game performance test of your fitness. Agility, strength, flexibility, and endurance are put to the test
  4. Review – The evaluation and learning from your performance


Review Introduction

“Let’s go to the video tape.” The review is the evaluation of how well you played (planned, communicated, and executed) the game. Embrace this step for you, the organization, and those you lead to systematically improve. Otherwise you are destined to getting better only through luck. What are you evaluating? Everything, from end to end. Let’s take a look at it.


Rules of the evaluation

  • Process is king – develop a review process and stick to it
  • Everything is up for review
  • Honesty and full disclosure are expected
  • Tension is good, conflict is not
  • All stakeholders’ views are represented


The review provides the opportunity for individuals/groups with unique perspectives to provide an analysis of their performance, your performance, and the team’s performance in relation to the plan. Self-evaluation is a powerful learning tool. For large projects it is impossible to have every player participate. However, a process that allows every player’s views to be represented is imperative.


The Review Process

Determine a process that works for your team. Let’s work through an example. Pick an operation or event that you recently experienced to use as a thought experiment. Did you ever review that event? If so, did you have a process? If not here is a process to consider.


Start with evaluating the plan. Restate the original plan and evaluate some key considerations such as:

  • What did we say we were going to do?
  • What were our unknowns and assumptions?
  • How well trained were we?
  • What risks did we accept from the start?


Then evaluate only the plan. What was good about the plan and the planning process. Were the correct people involved, did we have too much detail, too little, assess budget, was the timeline realistic, etc.….?


Capture the lessons learned.


Step two, evaluate how well the plan was communicated. What worked, how and why it worked, and how to make it better. Evaluate the communication plan for the project. In retrospect was it effective? Key considerations, regular meetings, project updates, status, communication tools, etc…


Capture the lessons learned.


Step Three. Evaluate the execution. Sequentially is typical, looking at all phases of the project. For some projects a functional approach may make more sense, such as evaluating budget, logistics, operation, marketing, and deliverables. Adopt what works for your organization. The key; evaluate execution against the plan and identify deviations. Why? Because the deviations are trying to teach you something. Every plan will have deviations. Your goal is to understand the cause of the deviation and how it was handled. Typical causes are a planning oversight, an organizational blind spot, or a gap in capability. Each cause will present different ramifications and learning opportunities. Understand why you deviated from the plan and the lesson.


Evaluate communication at every phase of the execution. Capture the lessons learned.


Summary of the Process

To be a learning organization, you need to incorporate the lessons learned into corporate knowledge. Results from each review provide invaluable information. It shows you and everyone else where your organization is performing well, who is performing well, and identifies gaps.


This is similar to an athletic team reviewing a video of their last contest. They evaluate their performance by analyzing the details of each phase of the game. The result is a training plan to improve for the next contest. An analogous approach for your organization can unlock continuous growth. Secondary effects to expect are increased trust, collaboration, and respect among team members.


Considerations for Your (The Leader’s) Involvement in the Review

Ever experience this? At the end of the project the leader brings the team together for an assessment. Which is conducted verbally from the boss’s perspective. Congratulations are given to certain members, some shortcomings identified, and a plan to address them. The only learning is what is most important to the boss.


How to be a learning organization? As the leader, lean back, observe, and be curious. How will leaning back make you more effective? You will gather the perspectives of players you may not see very often. You will sharpen the picture of your team and answer important questions such as:

  • How deep is my organization?
  • How effective are we at planning?
  • How good are we at communicating?
  • How do I capitalize on our strengths?
  • What do I need to do to make us stronger?


This final element of organizational fitness, Review, provides important metrics on the fitness of your organization. More importantly it provides the data to learn and improve your fitness. Make your organization stronger by focusing on each element of organizational fitness:  planning, communicating, executing, and reviewing.

Organizational Fitness: What is it?

We all want to be fit; having lots of energy, less susceptible to illness, resilient, and able to participate in events and activities we choose. To do that we need to maintain a level of health and fitness. Organizations are the same. Think of organizations you have been associated with that you would rate both high and low on the fitness scale. What were their traits?

Fit: Resilient, vibrant, able to adjust pacing, and have the agility to react to unforeseen obstacles.

Out of Shape: sluggish and operating with substantial inertia limiting responsiveness.

What is the level of fitness in your organization and how do you measure it? The following elements are what I see as keys to organizational fitness:

  • Planning – the ability to effectively plan at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels
  • Communication – the ability to ensure all members of the organization have the same message
  • Execution – the ability to operationalize a plan with agility
  • Review – the ability to continually assess and integrate lessons learned into current and future operations

Let’s briefly examine each one.


Plans provide the measuring stick for an organization at every level. Without a plan direction is unclear, success is purely subjective, and confusion reigns. What are some components that are common at every level? First, is the requirement for a clearly defined vision, measure of success, or end state. Everyone needs to know where you are going and what it looks like when you get there. Second, a solid plan requires the right people in the room to create the plan. Regardless of the level; strategic, operational, or tactical, if you do not have the correct people creating the plan, your plan is flawed. Lastly, the plan must set boundaries, metrics and standards.

Ever experience this? You are handed a plan to implement that you had zero input on designing, when your expertise would have clearly helped? The impact on you emotionally and professionally was?


The concept of clear communication is completely understood by everyone at the lower end of an organization. Just ask. When the bottom rung of an organization is left confused by the message, it generates significant discontent and criticism of the leadership. Statements such as “What they should have done is” or “They don’t know how this affects us.” Why is it that leaders are criticized as being unable to communicate clearly throughout the organization? Get feedback from every corner and level to determine what was received. Just because you said it does not mean it was heard.


The heart of every operation; getting the job done, providing deliverables, services, and products. If you missed the mark on planning and communication the likelihood of having consistently smooth operations are small. But what else is required for a fit organization in the area of execution? This is where agility, resiliency, flexibility, and the ability to react to changing conditions make the greatest impact. If those executing the plan are inextricably tied to the plan without a level of autonomy and authority to make adjustments. Your fitness is suspect.

Toyota famously created the Andon Cord that allowed any worker on the assembly line to pull the cord to stop production and correct a problem. Supervisors would huddle with the individual to assess the issue and resolve it prior to restarting the production line. Every industry, company, and small business intuitively knows what fitness look like in the execution of its business. Having the discipline to adhere to the standard is the challenge. This is similar to going to the gym or running every day. Just going through the motions does not provide a quality workout or run. You need to be deliberate about what you want to accomplish.


This is accountability for what was delivered and how. A culture of intentional review develops a learning organization and can be a game changer. Looking at each project or deliverable and assessing: what was the plan, how was it communicated, how well did we execute the plan, is difficult. This challenge provides the opportunity to find bright spots and celebrate successes as well as identifying areas for improvement.

What would this look like for you and your organization? How can this be integrated into the normal way of doing business. Fitness takes discipline, consistency, and the continuous evaluation of results that are fed back into the organization.

Who would benefit if your organization operated at its highest level of fitness possible? Need help assessing your business’ fitness level?  Please contact us today for your complimentary coaching session.

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