Buy, Borrow or Bypass: Mastering the Challenge of Leading Change by H. James Dallas

  • by Jeff Skipper
  • May 13, 2016
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This book is the author’s personal view on what it takes to effect change as a leader. As such, there is little on the way of research or reflection on what others have done in the domain.

However, the author is clearly good at what he does – he has a number of helpful insights. Most valuable is the guidance about building a network of support (hubs) that will not only tell you ‘what’s really happening out there’ but also give you clear feedback on your own performance as a leader.

Dallas offers solid tips for navigating the political landscape, a skill many leaders and change practitioners lack. In Chapter 1 he suggests that leaders make regular contact with customers, peers and front-line staff and ask:

  1. What are the top 3 things we are doing well?
  2. What are the top 3 things we are doing badly?
  3. What are the top 3 things we need to do to fix them?

You’ll be surprised at how those opens up honest dialogue and a pipeline of useful insights.

Dallas has some good tips for assessing culture by viewing how leaders interact with others. Unsurprisingly, he advocates for a lot of listening.

My favorite point is when he lays out the ‘Getting Lost with Confidence Matrix’. Basically, the larger the scale and complexity of an initiative, the higher the probability the project team will get lost along the way. By stating this up front, the team is poised to watch how it is doing and to be prepared to acknowledge when things have gotten off track. It’s going to happen. Knowing it will happen is empowering.

There are good tips about preparing for go-live (prepare for the worst!), building crisis teams (don’t forget your communications team!) and planning for leader transitions during long projects (it’s going to happen).

It’s an easy read with lots of good stories and examples. I certainly got some good points out of it.

Verdict: Borrow

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Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is a recognized expert in strategy development and change leadership. Fortune 500 clients such as IBM, AT&T, Shell, Goldman Sachs and Bayer have engaged him to achieve dramatic results. Organizations aiming to excel through transformation and laser-focused execution call upon Jeff to drive returns quickly with high employee adoption, avoiding costs of up to $2 Billion. Leaders who work with Jeff reclaim up to 40 hours every month to invest in personal and professional goals. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional.

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