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Transcript: #112 Dr John Kotter

Please note, this is the entire transcript, with little to no editing.


people, leadership, organization, world, john, create, vision, opportunities, management, leading, helping, change, important, terms, study, business, system, problem, achieve, running


Brad Jeavons


Welcome to the enterprise excellence podcast where our purpose is to help create a better future. Learn from our world's experts how to improve your organization sustainably, learn how to achieve and sustain an excellence journey for yourself, others and the planet.

Brad Jeavons 00:17

And I'm your host, Brad Jevons, coming to you from Brisbane Australia. We are proudly brought to you in association with sa partners, a world leading business transformation consultancy, sa partners are a truly purposeful company focused on helping organizations achieve sustainable improvement for themselves, others in the planet. Welcome to Episode 112 of the enterprise excellence podcast. It is a pleasure to have Dr. John Kotter on the show with us today. John needs little introduction. We've all gained so much from his work and change management, business agility, and leadership over his career. John is a Harvard Business School professor, he has written many best selling books such as leading change, sense of urgency, and my iceberg is melting. Today, we will be honing in on his recent books accelerate, and most recently change. These two books are so relevant to what we are facing. They provide insights into developing business agility, change for the better, and making it stick. Let's get into the episode. John, thank you so much for joining us today.


My pleasure.

Brad Jeavons 01:23

I really appreciate John. John, what's your backstory and what what sort of moments through your life led you down this path where you know, we know what you've done and what you continue to do?


Well, I started off in a different direction, basically. The Russians are put up Sputnik, the US Congress freaked out and allocated all kinds of money to science training, at a time when I was going into high school. So the only thing in my high school that had any money in the head of me interest was science. So I ended up at MIT, where the science education, but it didn't take me very long at MIT to say that probably pure science was not going to be the passion of my life. The probability of being a minor league, Einstein was zero. But I went on to a graduate degree at MIT at the Sloan School. And then on to Harvard Business School. And then under the faculty, and I've always had in for reasons spread, I'm not entirely sure. A deep interest in organizations and individuals who perform at a really high level and not just for a short period of time, but sustaining it over a longer period of time. Not Not sure why, believe it or not my undergraduate fraternity was my first real even though I was president of my high school class college class, the the real job that showed me something about organizations was running the fraternity. So I was responsible as president for 70 souls, and their kind of individual development, their social life, feeding them, housing them, you know, et cetera. And I noticed I suspect that there was a wide gap, and how well the fraternities of MIT perform, and even within our own fraternity within nationally. And anyway, so the first real study was my doctoral thesis. And that kind of alerted, and that's been followed by something like four team multi year studies. Wow, that in combination, I'm told, I've been told, is the largest research project in the world program, rather in the world. And it's been a blast. And it took me from trying to understand performance, to getting more and more interested in what leadership meant, and that leadership wasn't management, which was mostly what was being taught at business schools. And leadership was somehow important because it produced it could mobilize people to overcome barriers and create useful change that would take advantage of opportunities out there, which led them to noticing that there were more opportunities, actually, if you look, because the world was changing faster, and more voluntarily and with more uncertainty. And so we've kind of put it all together. And it's


been studying in more and more depth. And I'm very, very interested still today in understanding more about how individuals and institutions can adapt faster, smarter, better, to a rapidly changing volatile world, in order to not just survive, but to truly thrive to truly prosper in a sustainable way over time. And when you've had a chance to see an institution, or an organization, or a small business or a nonprofit, do this, kind of get into the right rhythm, learn what I called him, us, the newest book, The Science of the emerging, emerging science of change. There's a lot to be learned yet. It is, it's just thrilling. It's breathtaking. When people people surprised themselves, they can't believe they just produced this, you know, innovative product or service are that they've made so much money or they've created a workplace that people just love so much. That's in this COVID world, we need a whole lot more of that.

Brad Jeavons 06:47

Yeah. John, it really sounds like from an early time, you're really caught on to this difference in performance. And then I'm, I'm assuming you must have cottoned on to the power of leadership pretty quick in that piece where it's like, okay, well, there's a difference in performance here. And boy, leadership can play a part in shifting that understand it was maze you studied maze in your doctorate.


Correct. My doctoral thesis focused on city governments in the United States during the 1960s, which was a very tumultuous time. For cities, we had riots, we had lots of turmoil. And ultimately, we studied 20 upclose. We fly there and interview with people. And 20 mayors, and even though I think the study started focusing on the government apparatus, it evolved more to focusing on the mayor simply because that's what appeared to be most interesting, and most differentiating between the cities that did really well. And some of these cities, even under difficult conditions, did phenomenally well. And some of them were disasters. And then a lot of it came back to the mayor's and it was a wonderful experience for a young man. I mean, I was just so lucky sitting and listening to Eric Johnson. Eric Johnson was mayor of Dallas with two terms. After he was CEO of Texas Instruments he helped found what the first semiconductor company in the world are one of the first and certainly the first to offer consumer product. Having about a little handheld adding machine. He was in his 70s Everybody wanted his time and attention and that he would be willing to give it to a young unknown guy. It was just marvelous. And then it Lana, I can still remember sitting in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in the front row on a hard seat talking to Martin Luther King senior about the mayor of Atlanta during that period and Ivan Allen and of course his son Martin Jr. I mean just talking about learning about leadership and exciting face to face up up close not sitting in the library not sending out questionnaires way it was it was terrific.

Brad Jeavons 09:47

It's amazing, amazing, formidable years and former all people like they and John like I guess you know, like you're saying great leadership has always been there is just you know, you you're yourself and A few others have dedicated your careers to really studying into it and go, Okay, well, what is it and leadership and the way that I guess leaders behave and the systems they do that make it work or impacted?


Correct. And I think the distinction that I first made even between leadership is not management is still such a fundamental issue that informs so much, including how you deal with a rapidly changing uncertain world, and is still misunderstood. Some people think they're the same thing. Basically, there's a management something in a leadership is a part of management or management is a part of leadership, or one is good, and one is bad. leadership was good, and management is bad, all of which is not true. They're, they're different behaviors. They're different processes that serve different purposes. Management didn't exist, really, in its modern form. Until the end of the 19th century, the first school of management in the world was from maybe 1870. And it was University of Pennsylvania. And the first graduate school in the world was from 1908, at Harvard, and it barely got started, because most of the Harvard faculty said, why do we want a business school? This is, you know, next thing that you'll want as a school for plumbers. Somehow they overcame that. And it evolved. And fun, just to put this in perspective, when I took over our first year, a required course in organizational behavior in 1990. When I was teaching full time, at the business school at Harvard, the number of required courses from 1908, to 1990, which is when I took it over, that had the word leader leadership, lead, any variation of that in the title was zero, wow. And I threw out the OB course, even though it wasn't a bad course, and put in what had been teaching in executive Ed. And we've called it lead out capital L, capital E, capital A capital D. But the mere fact that even at Harvard, and we were the the first one to have that kind of a course, I think, advanced among the big names that focused X explicitly on leadership, and was an important required course for MBAs. And it's not an accident, it's simply leadership was becoming more important because leadership is so closely associated with mobilizing people who deal with change, and the world was changing more and more and needing that mobilization. So just like management came along in 1870, because all of a sudden, we were building these large businesses based on and industrialization for the first time ever. And just promoting the gang boss to middle management wasn't working. The the financers knew that there was some set of skills, some processes. And they were in therefore invented by people like the University of Pennsylvania, and oil, it's the same with leadership and change. Now, all of the important topics are come up at a certain time, because the ecosystem around us demands it. And if you ever wonder it, at least iPhone, whether something is just a shiny new ball that will kind of come and capture our attention for six months and then go away or not, is simply stop and say, what's happening in the world. Is there some logic, why this ball is appearing at this time? And is important, and if there is, then study the heck out of it, and use it in a thirst not throw it away?

Brad Jeavons 14:51

Yeah, I don't know. I remember. I think I heard a talk of yours at one stage and I was actually it must have been on a podcast So something I was driving to work. And I remember getting to work and drawing on my board, the yin and yang symbol, and putting on one side leadership and the other side management, you know, because I really heard in your talk, that, you know, there's two sides to the piece, but they work, they need to work in harmony, and you need to flex between the two. That was a real aha moment for me.


Yeah. Management is all about, basically, creating efficiency and reliability, even at scale, through processes like planning and budgeting, and organizing, staffing and controlling and problem solving. Which, when you have enough people, and it's complex enough, is very, very difficult to do. Hence, the genius of the importance of management. Leadership is in a sense about building the systems, the managers manage and changing them to adapt to a changing world. And it does it through paying attention to opportunities out there, about creating a vision of how you can capitalize on those opportunities, communicate in relentlessly and impactful way to get people to buy into that vision. And then empowering them actually giving them some rope and some latitude to be proactive themselves. So you get more and more people into the game of strategically changing an organization and becoming better and better or taking high performance and keeping it high, despite your business just getting old disappearing on you. And you have to reinvent. But those two pieces fit together, as you say, perfectly, and you take one away, and you either don't do that. Or you create chaos. Yeah, neither of which is a great idea.

Brad Jeavons 17:06

And I think it's funny, John, and a lot of companies that I engage with, I can typically see one or the other, you know, you can see the you can see the bureaucracy, and the slowness and the lack of change through the well, it can be the management or leadership that, you know, both and then it through the leadership. And then you can also see, management gone completely the wrong way. It's, it's compelling. And John, the thing I love about your recent books that you've written, accelerate, I really love reading and picking up in the jewel operating system, which we'll talk about, and then change, bringing in what you just mentioned, you know, the have to the one to the head, the heart of management and leadership, and the Select View versus a diverse many, and how you applied it across many different aspects from strategy to deploying Agile to mergers and acquisitions. It's brilliant. What, what led you to write these books, John, because, you know, I've read all your other books and loved them. And then we've accelerated it's sort of like you're predicting the future. And then we've changed it was like you wrote the book just at the right time. What did you see happening? And why did you start to bring in this rule, this connection to agility at that time to really start to stem down on vision and a lot of those key elements you just spoke about?


Well, at a certain point, about 12 or 13 years ago, I decided to found a consulting company. And I really think the last thing the world needs is one more management selling company that just Yeah, but I didn't see anybody, including some great firms that my students went to work for, really handling the material that I was studying. Well, they did a great job of producing these tech. What are today PowerPoint decks there analytically, sometimes brilliant. But in terms of actually getting people mobilize to take action, and then getting high quality results that sustain themselves over time, that wasn't their specialty. So we formed a company and I think, watching up close our consulting assignments, gave me a new window for seeing things in this world and seeing things at a more granular level and seeing things with less filters. Because I was in the meeting. So I was in the room, as they say, Yeah. And I'm sure that helped produce these two books that you've just mentioned, the accelerate. And the change book, the change book is written by two other people from that consult consulting firm, younger people, terrific. Terrific people than so anchor up and accelerate and help from six or seven of us. Besides me, although I wrote the book, came up with the basic ideas, but watching up close what these companies, what these executives, what these sometimes young professionals and CEOs were going through, it became clearer and clearer that they were moving too slowly, in terms of taking advantage of opportunities, that windows of opportunities were opening and shutting faster. And the third world ways that few were nevertheless taking advantage of that. What other startup is simply problems and threats, they were seeing as opportunities. And, again, a lot of it comes back to leadership, in this case, more leadership from more people. It's It's fascinating how people raised especially in my generation, but the generation two down still have this notion, often, implicitly, in their minds, that you could have too much leadership, and you want one guy kind of driving, pointing the way. And if you had a bunch of people, it would be somehow disruptive or chaotic. And yet


the evidence that I've seen up close in some of the companies we've worked with, it's amazing how, but let me give you an example.


We work with one well known international company. And I got to know them pretty well. Some of the senior people, including one of the guys on the executive committee, who was our main client, and at a certain point, they had a meeting with a group of people who we helped them put together to drive massive changes. And the executive committee knew that this was going on and had said yes, but they didn't have any detail. And at this meeting, they got story after story after story, including from some younger people, including some people who were workers in plants, who never came to executive committee meetings. And you could tell from the looks on their faces, it went from not believing to maybe believe in to being astonished to being really, really happy with lots of applause at the at the end. And what they had seen was a group of what 20 or 30 or 40 people from around the company, who were not in jobs that me at the executive committee would say our major leadership jobs, but they were all every one of them in their own way, helping provide leadership on something that collectively was making this big part of a big firm, move faster salary and change more in terms of executing a new strategy in terms of integrating some acquisitions that they've made in terms of some restructuring. That turned out not to be just damaging and demoralizing. Because they did it right. And in terms of some major digital projects, transformations. This is more leadership for more people is at the center of it But, yeah, I'm sure you have some people watching this, or listening to this podcast today, who don't think of themselves as leaders. And I would urge them to stop and look at what's happening in this world and to reevaluate. You don't have to be Winston Churchill or pick your favorite, you know, larger than life person. But increasingly, it's good for you, it's good for your career. And it's more meaningful, and fun to get out there and help with strategically important initiatives, by not only just managed to do something or doing something technically well, but helping provide leadership.

Brad Jeavons 25:59

And that's, that's Nate, like you're saying, John, the leaders that are all at all levels of an organization, you know, you're mentioning their frontline team members who are involved in those those that work and providing great input and leading the change. of John, I've been to sites creating a better future is about to say to me, change the open organization know what the exact words were something like society works you don't have in the planet intelligence, change is not easy by creating a new product line changes, as well as last half the work they're doing on organization they're working on, we have an amazing time where the knowledge cast or secret to get hold over the journey. Both of them critical. feature that allows you to connect with other leading global experts in where you go see modern level crossing, help gain knowledge from each other driving dichotomy where if the monthly newsletter or community to help healing at least go to enterprise excellence, podcast, slash content, not really K, let us know, or reach out on LinkedIn or any other communication channel. So it gets you connected


happening on the show, and waterways. I'm thinking of one of the military situations that we we I got a chance to see up close and the general was a terrific guy in charge of this. And he was so frustrated. He was saying no, I'm getting no good ideas, none. You know, and after a while he kind of go off the end of it, they must all be idiots. Not, I don't think he ever said that. To me. That was the implication. And, of course, what it was, is they had a very, very strict command and control structure that was set up with clear expectations given to new people who joined the army, that their job was to shut up and take quarters, which is what they did. So that was the culture. And what they needed was a culture that was well managed, and then held people accountable for whatever their jobs were. But then also also empowered people to work in small teams, large teams, whatever, to find opportunities for making the operation better. In light of the changing technologies and global military competitive situation, and once they once we help them get that going, which took a while. The general was happy the the middle management and lower local management were much more meaningfully engaged in their work. And all of a sudden innovation shows up and so like where did that come from? Well, no. You can connect the dots here, between how you're organized Is what you're putting an emphasis on, and how much innovation you get or don't get it, you will know. And one of the people that was on what we call a guiding coalition that helped drive a lot of change, actually ended up being selected in an incredibly competitive race to be an astronaut. And I'm, I'm memory is that this person said that part of the reason that they kind of, were able to get that job was because of some things they learn. During this transition transformation that I've just described at the army base, they learn something about leadership, the people selecting astronauts were looking

Brad Jeavons 31:04

for, and that's awesome. And joining in the book accelerate. And then in change, you mentioned this jewel operating system, you know, where you've got the stable day to day business, running the business and, and keeping the organization going. And then you have this more of a Matrix style opt in. You mentioned in some cases where you form small teams that can draw out of the business. And those teams are focused on leading change and leading these projects went away, do you mind explaining that in your words, John, that jewel operating system?


Sure. I still remember the first time that I actually used those words and drew a diagram. It was at a meeting at the Westin, the harbor club, maybe it was the Yale club in Manhattan, with a bunch of New York based executives, and one of our clients. And he and I were trying to explain what he had done over the last three years in which he had executed, developed, executed, well, a totally new strategy. And the results, the stock price had gone from 25 to 59. And everybody was happy. And we had whiteboards. And at one point, I said, He's talking and I said, let me try to draw what he's describing to you. And I drew a typical organizational structure or hierarchy boxes, you know, in lines down, and I said, this is, this is a dual system, this is half. But this is what you kind of know and work through most of the time. And then I drew kind of a circle with the spokes going out and then spokes going out from the little circles. I said that this is a different kind of Mount work, where you can have where the people who are Emmet, self select in from the hierarchy, so you're not having to staffs that's not the point. But you do have two different kinds of jobs, as we've said. One is, the first is making sure the system runs well, despite complexities, despite geographic dispersion, despite numbers, 10s of 1000s of people. And the point of the second system, that network of people that kind of come together around strategic initiatives is to spot and drive change. And the two need to work together, that is to say, to communicate a lot, so you don't get surprises. And ultimately, that is what I think all great profit, profit making and non profit making business and governments are doing today that are doing really, really well. They often don't recognize it. Sometimes they talk in terms of the formal organization, and informal organization. But it helps to be more precise in that to say no, this is what you're doing. This is why it's this is what one half is doing. This is what the other half is doing. And this is why you're performing so well. And that is becoming, in my judgment as the world moves faster and faster. even more important that you explicitly understand that there is this dual way of operating, and you run it accordingly.

Brad Jeavons 35:12

John, one question I've got on this, and I've read it in your book too. So for listeners, you can read it through the book as well, is John explaining the bit where you set up that jewel operating system, and you've got this autonomous, Matrix style, autonomous structure where people are opting into it. And you're setting up these really leading change strategic focus teams. And then you've got the existing business, which is running the day to day and looking at efficiencies and improving in its own way. On the secret for the existing business, not destroying the dirt, the other side of the jewel operating system, you know, the existing business not going, Oh, we're too busy, I can't release you today. You can't go over to that team and work on that today come back here, or the threat response come into the existing business where they I don't want that. I guess it's sort of I think it's like the Kodak example, you hear of where they supposedly I don't know, created the digital camera first, but the existing business just destroyed it, like


right now that that this happens all the time, less so in dramatic ways, then I think 20 years ago, because we've learned something, we are applying an even bigger one. Kodak was based in Rochester, New York, also in Rochester was Xerox. The people who ran Xerox actually figured out that the main business would never innovate. Beyond the Xerox machines, they just make better and better Xerox machines. And so they needed a second system. And they created it on the other side of the country, hired a totally different kind of work force. It was called the Palo Alto Research Center. And the Palo Alto Research Center innovated like mad, and but you had these two organizations that were staffed by different people who had different missions, who didn't understand each other. So the people in Rochester kept thinking, these weird guys out in Palo Alto, understand nothing about business. They're just technologists. Meanwhile, just a young kid by the name of Steve Jobs, wanders through the Palo Alto Research Center says, Whoa, these guys are onto something, and forms apple and his goes from there.


They didn't kill it. But for all practical purposes, they killed all the commercial possibilities. Because of the way they handled it. No, it works. Well, when, number one, the organization has a sense of urgency that no matter how well we're performing, the world is changing. And we've got to be on our toes, we've got to be constantly looking for innovation, or opportunities, and innovate to take advantage of those opportunities. And a, the structure that runs the current business is just just as good at that. It's not a matter of they're bad people know them. They're marvelous people who do something very, very well. But we need another system that handles the opportunity spotting innovation. And we've got to make it happen. This is a sense of versity it is important. And when you get that people start to step forward, not everybody. But a few saying this makes total sense. I'm in what can I do to help and you start the cycle of, they do some things in a new way in a new networked way. It produces a better result. It's more innovative, that attracts attention because top management is smart enough to put a spotlight on and you know, pat the guys on the back and say, Well done, so more people would become involved. You get more activity, more successes, and you get this kind of virtuous cycle going. And after a while you built yourself a new system, a dual system, where people don't shoot at each other and try to kill each other off. Where works well together? Because you basically change the culture of how people think about running the business. Yeah.

Brad Jeavons 40:21

It's where it's so amazing, John, that you've done the research you've done, you know, global expert and change and making transformation stick, has now looked at heavily at Audi create agility and change through the way you structure your company. It's a perfect marriage. So thank you for what you've done. My John, do you mind? Just explaining the piece of sense of like, it connects a lot back to leadership, doesn't it? You mentioned a lot of leadership elements, a sense of urgency, leadership, short term wins, recognizing short term wins. John, do you mind mentioning, the reason why is and how to create a sense of urgency? I've heard you talk on this a few times. And I think it'd be great for the listeners to know because it seems a key point of getting changed this piece he talks about with threat and opportunity.


I think the single most important thing that you need to do to create enough of a sense of urgency is to correctly know what your current state is, the number of times I've sat in my living room, not where I'm living right now. But when I was in Harvard Square, where I'd have executive groups, and I'd say, how, how much are your people, and how many of your people really see that the world is changing, there are great opportunities. And I feel like, every day they get up, they wanted to do something, to operate it in a new and better way. And I'd get all, many people, many people, and I say how do you know that? And they say, Are you kidding, people are working long hours, no, they just meeting the meeting, that meeting the energy is incredible. So I made a couple of phone calls after these guys leave. And what I find is, there's a lot of energy, but it's anxiety driven. It's not excitement, passion driven. And it's burning people out. It's not sustainable. So the situations where I've seen people develop a real sense of urgency, they start off with an honest assessment, where they're at, where they almost always find they're not near where they need to be. And then it's a matter of role model. You as an executive or middle manager, just show people what a sense of urgency looks like. You know, when when people start talking about opportunities, don't ignore them, especially if they're interested in shift show your own passion, your own energy, Pat people on the back when they do achieve something that's new, a new way to talk about speed and time and, and the idea is not to run ourselves in the ground. Nobody wins that way. We win, because we spot great opportunities, and we create this kind of positive energy that is sustainable, to attack them, and work is more fun. And you can role model all of that people will catch on. And it all goes up.

Brad Jeavons 44:04

It sounds like the I've heard this term leadership shadow before where, you know, people talk of the shadow what the role model seeing what the leader does heavily to talks, what the leadership do, is that part of what you're talking about there, John, that senior leaders, you know, can actually through their behavior and what they exude, start to shift cultural not


sure essential to one essential piece to cultural change is role modeling from the top and being very sensitive to you know, you a lot of people a lot of very talented, very well educated people are not particularly sensitive to their own actions and the impact of their actions. I can still remember or maybe from last year where a guy who I thought was terrific, is running. So he's running a big organization, it's not us. And he's got his executive committee together. And he does a great job of taking some coaching. And he's driving this conversation naturally around the the very real opportunities that his business has out there, that they're not acting fast enough to capitalize on. But he's not beating anybody up. It's, it's what would happen. Think about for a second, if we could exploit this, capitalize on this, what it would do for our employees, our customers. Our investors say, yeah, it was a wonderful mate, that in the last 10 minutes, okay, somebody in his direct reports, brought up a problem that had come up from a customer. And it set him off, he was just so mad, that the, that his business, his people handled this customer that he went out of a tirade, and beat up everybody in the room. And that's how the meeting ended. So you can imagine memory being what it is the first 50 minutes kind of evaporate, the last 10 minutes stay in place. And when I pointed that out to him, of course, he's devastated. He didn't mean to do that. But I have found that people can become more self reflective and more self aware, if they get a clearer what it is they need to be doing. And sometimes it's also helpful to have a colleague or a friend, kind of us, come watch me. I'm trying to achieve x and y. And if I behave in a way that doesn't demonstrate that, tell me just one little tag

Brad Jeavons 47:34

is like a role confirmation, you know, my role as the leader of this meeting and give me feedback. That is awesome. John, with earlier in the episode, you mentioned around, you know, I know, in quarter International, you've got millions leading billions benefiting as your vision here that that's a motivational vision with the UN, I can see it, you know, I can see improved leadership, and it's going to have a flow on effect to billions of people and things in the world. Well, what is the power of a good vision for a leader for a senior leader in their team and leaders below them connecting to that? What power does having a really compelling vision? And I guess you mentioned earlier to constantly talking about it, constantly storytelling about it? What's the importance of that?


Because the problem with so many business missions and strategies is that they're antiseptic, we are very emotional creatures. Our nervous systems are very much connected to our, our hearts, as well as our heads, if you will. And what good vision can do is not only rationally helping you to understand that we want to go this direction, not this direction, but they can engage you at a deeper level and make that trip feel more exciting, more meaningful, which can make all the difference in the world and getting a group of people to take on challenges, to take on barriers to to deal with the ambiguity and the volatility that is very real today around the cell. So it's very important, because it can not only direct it can engage emotionally and produce sustainable energy and that you Need to make important things out?

Brad Jeavons 50:03

And nice. It's, it's such a I guess, you mentioning the bit about the emotion driver. John, what's your thoughts nowadays about the threat response of say, I guess I've crisis vision of we've got to survive and Bom bom bom rattle the drums we've got to go verse that positive emotion, vision and driver, what's your thoughts on that nowadays?


One of the things that the studies reviewed for the latest book came out just last year was looking over the research that's been done the last two decades on what loosely is called brain science. And it's very clear to me that we all have in our hardware, if you will, a system that was first developed at least 100,000 years ago, maybe much further back than that, that has one basic function, and its survival. And it's an incredibly powerful system. It's like our eyes and our ears. And our smell is constantly doing this radar check around us looking for threats. And when it perceives a threat, it can send us into action, just like that, just this energy burst. So way back when it was walking through the savanna or jungle, see saber toothed Tiger out of the corner of your eye, and you're up at the top of a tree in like four seconds, you women the Olympic medal. That system is still very much in to all of us. And it's very powerful. And it's needed. We, you know, you step off a curb, and don't notice at a corner of your eye that there's a bus coming, that systems will save your life. But that system gets applied these days, to a lot more than the physical challenges that it was designed for. It gets applied to eco challenges, career challenges, organizational challenges, interpersonal challenges, and it can overheat. And when an overheat, it shuts down a second system that is much newer in evolutionary terms, which is similar in many ways, but looks for opportunities. And when it sees an opportunity, instead of getting anxious, and feeling, you know, the fight or flight syndrome, which is very much associated with us survive. This Thrive system exudes chemicals that we feel as excitement. It's curiosity is passion. And we want to take action, not at the same 200 miles an hour for a short period of time. And as long as we can see evidence that we're making some progress at exploiting that opportunity, that energy level can stay up for a significant period of time. The problem that we face so often today is leaders in their own anxiety over some problem played to the survive side. But there are people are already overloaded on the survive side. And there is no way that they can take action and solve the problem in a day or two or a week. It's something that's going to take a year or two years. And so they just run around in circles burnout, get frustrated, get mad. And COVID has not made that easier. And I tucked that in very often people will say no, no. That's how you create with a sense of urgency. Now, if the problem cannot be solved in a short period of time, putting people into a fight flight survive state does not solve your problem. It just burns them out. And it creates a low performing organization.


And it's amazing how often I occasionally bump into people in major leadership positions. Who don't get this point.

Brad Jeavons 55:38

Yeah, yeah. It's a it's a challenge. And especially with the amount of anxiety people are feeling in the world right now. It's like everyone's, everyone's on the edge of that fight or flight naturally. Correct. Yeah. With with, I heard a talk that you did with Google once, which was a great talk on on you. And it was right when your new book change was coming out. And you mentioned in that the need for celebrating short term wins with this positive vision, this positive Thrive vision, and you made a statement, which was like, I really see that celebrating the short term wins is critical. And I want to ask you this question for two things. Because I see, in Australia in particular, I see a lot of leaders, they don't want to talk about their vision all the time, they don't want to share stories, they don't necessarily celebrate the short term wins. I think part of it can be because it's seen as soft or mushy. And it's like, I'm a tough Ozzy bloke, or something I don't know properly, I probably need to look into my soul and explore too, because I'll probably figure it out. But do you mind explaining why it's so important to constantly share stories about the vision and also celebrate short term wins?


Again, the way that you get large numbers of people into the game of helping you find the opportunities exploit the opportunities move faster, and perform at high levels, is you get this virtuous cycle going. And a key part of that cycle is more and more of these short term wins, which are made visible and are celebrated. And you're right. I think there are some people who had often not always more technical education. So like I had, who think this stuff sounds so soft, that they're suspicious about it. I think there are some people that just haven't seen somebody do this well. So they haven't kind of learned it yet in their career. And there are others who are afraid that if you celebrate one person success, you're somehow making other people jealous. But all of those are issues that you can deal with. The reality is I talked about it in the newest book, The Change book, we do have an emerging science underlying the word science change. This isn't all soft, soft, soft stuff. There's been enough research done that we could say things with great confidence. One, and if you look at great leaders throughout history, their willingness and capacity to deal with these kinds of issues, including being very sensitive to spotting celebrating, patting people on the back, not necessarily throwing money at them. That's more recent, modern phenomena. And there's no evidence that that's the best we you you run out of money at a certain point, you know, people need psychic income, which is different than paper income. And they love it. When they can do something that they know is useful and meaningful and be recognized for it. And their energy level. Just go up another notch and stay up which is what you need is days to deal with this follows all ambiguous, challenging world.

Brad Jeavons 59:46

We all typically want to serve something and someone don't we like we love to serve and be recognized for that. Serving. John with the final question, I've got my eye on the topic of change is the importance of senior leadership and executive we've spoken a bit in the show about their shadow, and about the piece of vision and motivating and how important or not, is it that a senior leadership team really owns a transformation? And they own that project and really the longer term journey and actually continue the energy on it, what's your thoughts verse, it can be handled by another team somewhere else in the organization.


I have yet to see one of the most common problems we first identified, we were studying trash ruination. And I wrote an article that was called something like why transformations fail, is because executive teams delegated responsibility totally to some more junior team that didn't have the strength, the leadership capability, the authority, the information needed to do that job. And a number works. But that doesn't mean that a executive team should own it in the sense of only they are responsible. They want to get more and more people in the game, more and more people helping with the leadership shore. And those are the cases where you see things produce, sometimes just hard to believe, results.

Brad Jeavons 1:01:47

Sounds to me, John, like you're describing a mindset, because is your mindset, I've got this lean team, this agile team, this new strategy improvement team, and it's their job to make it successful. So they need to go do it. And I'm going to probably blame them or beat them up if they don't achieve it or not. And then there's a flip side mentality that we own and want to achieve this, and we're gonna lead it and see it through like crazy. And I've got these people who are working with us, and we're partnering with them to achieve the journey. But we, we are that real sponsors? And even I guess, some involvement piece, that mindset is that what would you describe, John? Is that am I on the right track with what you're talking about that?


Absolutely. But I'd say there are three, there's, it's their job. It's 100%, our job. And the third, which is it's all of our jobs. And we played different roles, we sponsor we, when they run into barriers that they can't call eliminate, we help out. They keep us informed, we guide. They provide more and more ideas, vacation, and energy. And it's that so it's one plus one equals three, you know,

Brad Jeavons 1:03:13

John, thank you so much, John, in your area of expertise, and all you've done, what, uh, what would be a rapid small two minute tip that you'd give to leaders to say, look, start here, consider this with trying to really build more agility and start to actually make a transformation stick in that space?


Well, I think we've hit the point. Now, this is going to sound outrageously self serving. So I'm just going to warn you in advance. We've, we've gotten to the point now, where we have studied this enough that we can say things with some real confidence. And if you're serious about wanting to improve your capacity to lead, improve your capacity to produce not just good, but outstanding organizations. Go out and look at the latest applied research you're showing. Read some of this stuff and try it. Don't just read it, try it. Use common sense. And I have found in our consulting, that we give out books, we give out articles and if they're given with the right oh tone, you know, you have to trust me on this, my friend. There's something in here you will find that will help you it's amazing how people will find things We'll try things that are new, and will get better results. Don't assume this is all a bunch of everybody's got a different opinion. And they're all equally valid. Nope. Don't assume this is such soft stuff that you can't say anything with it and confidence know, we're understanding it better, you should understand it better. And you can really do something with it. Yeah.

Brad Jeavons 1:05:34

Don't think thank you, too, for yourself and everyone around you. And that has helped through that research and bring that knowledge to light. Like you mentioned, you know, it's really shifted that new era of properly understanding leadership and stained and change. And it's been amazing. John, has there been a recent insight view, like something that you've learned recently that really set you


back a bit? Well, I don't know about. Set me back. One of the things we've been focusing on in the last six months, much more than ever before, is the problem associated with kind of the silo is zation of the world, if you will, that organizations naturally over time, with success can build up not just groups of people that you have to organize in groups, you've got to have hierarchies. But you build walls, between them and, and you attach anchors occasionally to groups of people, so they can maneuver very well. And so we've been talking about the term change friendly management systems. I think planning for example, as it is done today, operational planning, the yearly operational planning is going to have to change over the next decade. It we can't, it's a process that is to suck siloed off from the rapidly evolving events around you. It's a process that you It depends upon your being able to make predictions at a minimum of 12 months out, which is increasingly the owning fantasy. And so it slows you down and weighs you down. So change friendly management systems, I think, are much more important than I would have said 10 or 20 years ago. And we're certainly going to study that more, and try to come up with some useful ideas. And I would encourage others putting YouTube bread, they give it some thought,

Brad Jeavons 1:08:32

I join it some in my game of no process improvement. It's between the silos that most of the waste sits in most of the value sits is between the handoff the past of the baton, the passing of the baton is where mainly gets dropped. And I had Eve Mari ox from Boston Consulting on the podcast to join. He has a he has a great analogy with the baton pass and what he talks about there. So I think you're onto a great topic. I'll be looking forward to watching that research and what comes out of that going forward. Yeah, John. Well, John, I really appreciate your knowledge and everything you've done and being part of our community today and helping share knowledge to that community. And thank you so much, John, I know everyone knows where they can get the books, you know, any bookstore that you want. How can people reach out to Carter's cut International, if they want to connect and get some further help?


Yeah, just put it into your browser. Kotter k o t t e r, you'll get 10,000 things but near the top will be something about firm cutter International. And in that way, lots of information about practices and research and the light and a way to contact me if you got a question. And I actually do answer my email. Astonishing.

Brad Jeavons 1:10:06

John, thank you so much, Mike, it's been such an honor to be able to talk to you today. And I really appreciate it.


My pleasure, Brad, really, really.

Brad Jeavons 1:10:17

Remember, you can go to the enterprise excellence, backslash contact, to link into our monthly newsletter, and community to help you put learnings and other knowledge into practice to truly create a better future. There were four key takeaways for me from this episode. And of course, for that being Dr. John Carter, the first one leadership partnering with people of their organization to lead and achieve the transformation, not passing the transformation and change off to another team to go do and also not holding and controlling it totally themselves, more working in partnership with the organization, leading it, creating that compelling vision, and really providing that ongoing energy to help really see it through and achieve results. The second key takeaway for me was John's work on the jewel operating system, he's done to accelerate and also spoken about the book change. You know, what a great vision and visual John provided this way, you've got the traditional organization in that hierarchical structure, which is continuously improving and creating teamwork and efforts of movement forward as well, but also the dual system of the more network based connection of people who opt in from the current business, to really work and execute projects and small teams in a more agile way to truly create that future organization. Now, a critical part of this dual system that make it succeed and not have one destroy the other is that vision, and really connecting both sides of the organization to that. So that's my third key takeaway. vision that is meaningful, connects the mind and heart of an organization's people to develop positive energy, focus on opportunity that that drives culture forward, and performance, constancy of storytelling and communication of this vision is critical. John mentioned that many times in the show, in many ways to helping teams relate to that, and the goals that are associated with it, potentially put that vision into their own words and what it means for them and their customers. As well as a goals that correlate and help to achieve the ultimate organization vision and goals. You know, this helps so much with connecting and aligning the organization. It's critical to positive energy and helping keep that forward motion and that desire to change. And it's supportive, and creates that supportive culture between the dual operating systems that John spoke about. The fourth key takeaway for me is create short term wins. To sustain energy towards a meaningful vision, aspirational goals and culture. We need to celebrate short term wins, ways to celebrate great work and success in a formal and also informal way. This approach connects to the whole focus on positive forward motion. As humans we love to serve and help something other than ourselves. And the piece on vision really helps us connect into that. When we are recognized for this work, no matter how big or small, it helps fuel our energy and sustain the effort it takes to continue to change and improve. You know what a great episode that was so holistic, and covers so much of the critical elements to truly achieve change and also agility. John has connected to areas of passion for me, and I really thank him for that work. Thanks again, John, for your time and knowledge. Thanks for helping us create a better future. Bye for now.


Brad is proud to support many Australian businesses. You can find him on LinkedIn here. If you'd like to speak to him about how he can help your business, call him on 0402 448 445 or email Our website is

John Kotter can be found on https://www.k

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