One of this book’s greatest strengths is Seth Kahan’s unique ability to focus on the most important “whats” of change initiatives and then explain with both precision and eloquence how to do what must be done to ensure the success of those initiatives. He draws upon a wealth of real-world experience from which he learned a number of valuable lessons. He cites seven in the Introduction to this book, then devotes a separate chapter to each.
For example, here’s #7: WorkLifeSuccess to sustain high performance in the midst of change. “By this, I mean doing whatever it takes to achieve and sustain overall excellence.” Kahan envisions leadership at all levels and in all areas. He suggests that change agents must be “practical visionaries,” people “with their eyes on the horizon and their feet on the ground.” Kahan himself is a “practical visionary,” sustaining throughout his lively narrative a sharp focus on what works, what doesn’t, and why.
I especially appreciate his skillful use of a number of reader-friendly devices such as checklists and summaries of key points as well as contributions from prominent business thinkers such as Ken and Mary Gergin (“Social Construction and Leading Change”), Steve Denning (“Operating Without Budget or Authority”), Rick Stone (“The Power of the Story”), Jim Wolfensohn (“Talking to Everyone”), Madelyn Blair (“Storylistening for Reconnaissance”), Etienne Wenger (“Communities of Practice”), Lesley Shneier (“The World Bank’s Knowledge Fairs”), Larry Forster (“The Competency for Collaboration”), and John Kotter (“The Greatest Positive Impact”). It seems especially appropriate for Kahan to include such a variety of perspectives, given the inherent ecumenical nature of change agency. I also want to commend him for also providing two appendices, “Sample Strategic Engagement Plan” and JumpStart Storytelling.”