Memorable communications

The book we reviewed for the May 2011 Mindavation newsletter was Employees First, Customers Second by Vineet Nayar. ( to view the newsletters). In that book Nayar mentions that new knowledge or a shift in perception only comes about through ‘memorable, extreme or experimental’ communications. At an Intelligent Disobedience keynote presentation in the United States, one of our attendees shared a great example of extreme and experimental communications, and it saved a major project they were running.

A team of business analysts were working on the requirements for a new patient care system at a major metropolitan hospital. Despite pressures from senior hospital administrators to progress the new system, the administrator’s team members were not diligently attending requirements collection and analysis reviews. As a result, the project schedule was slipping and risked falling farther behind. The Business Analysis Manager had escalated the issue to the sponsor (one of the aforementioned senior administrators) multiple times. After the escalations, attendance at the requirements sessions would improve, but only temporarily. It was apparent another way of communicating to the senior administrators was necessary so the team tried a very different approach.

As the hospital administrators held their next monthly meeting, the business analysis team went into action. They collected a patient “crash cart” and connected it to a cardboard mock up of their project mascot (a running cartoon character to symbolize speed in getting patient data to physicians). They then brought the cart into the administrator’s meeting, turning the cart on as they entered. The device made the very familiar high pitch squeal, accompanied by the “flat line” appearing on the crash cart monitor. The business analysis team made an announcement to the meeting attendees that the patient care system project was in “critical condition”.

This notable means of communication got the required attention from the administrators to result in substantive change. Business representatives were added to the project team, requirements were collected and verified appropriately and the project ended up being a notable success for the hospital and the community it serves.

Note: This blog entry on communication demonstrates a great example of intelligent disobedience. If you or your organisation wants to learn more about intelligent disobedience and the value it can bring to your environment, check out our Inteligent Disobedience workshop which addresses many approaches to communication and influencing others. You can find details at or, or e-mail us at and we can arrange a presentation for you and your team on intelligent disobedience.

Do You Need a Stability Manager?

The concept of a change manager is growing in popularity, with the role becoming a standard part of many organisations, the Change Management Institute is gaining membership and Communities of Practice for Change Management are dotting the specialist landscape. Providing focus to this area is long overdue; there is a terrible history of repeated failure with projects that require cultural or significant procedural change.

Out of one of those change management meetings came a question, posed a bit facetiously, but warranting some thought. What about establishing a “Stability Manager” role? When people are experiencing change, they seek something more familiar. When moving to a new city people look for stability. Joining clubs that promote similar interests, becoming part of professional associations that are part of one’s profession or attending a church are examples of seeking stability in the midst of change. Why don’t we employ this role in change management initiatives, appealing to what we as humans do in other areas of our lives?

A Stability Manager could arrange specialised communities of practice, emphasise what is NOT changing in the midst of business churn and provide coaching on the process of making change or allowing change to occur in one’s life, versus just how to respond to a specific change posed by the business and its priority project. It could well be a very useful and much-needed role, making significant change easier to bear, with a title that has more appeal.

Maybe it is time we do think of stability factors as well as change factors. In your current projects, what stability factors could you emphasize in your organization alongside the changes you are imposing?

Our thanks go to Michael Davies from the Australian Department of Human Services for asking a GREAT question about the concept of a Stability Manager.

Note: If you or your organisation requires assistance with change and stability management check out our Critical Judgement workshop which addresses change via the “leadership lenses” of rational, organisational, political and cultural. You can find details at or, or e-mail us at and we can arrange a presentation for you and your team on how to increase your change (and stability) management capability.