Reset: A book review by Bob Morris

Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.
PublicAffairs (September 2021)

How to think differently about thinking differently when leading change initiatives

Much of what Johnny Taylor shares in this book is based on lessons he learned while struggling with his team to reset the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) after he was selected to serve as its president and CEO.

Why did he write this book? “I want to detail the path ahead as a roaf of innovation, curiosity, and new approaches to old practices and policies.” James O’Toole suggests that the strongest  resistance to change initiatives is cultural in nature, the result of what he so aptly characterizes as “then ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

As the title of my brief commentary suggests, they as well as all other C-level executives must think differently about thinking differently. The title of one of Marshall Goldsmith’s most valuable books suggests that “what got you here won’t get you there.” I agree. In fact, I presume to add that what got you here won’t even allow you to remain here, much less get you there, no matter how and where you define “here” and “there.” Taylor offers a wealth of information, insights, and counsel to leaders in any organization — whatever its size and nature may be — that explains HOW to reinvent the given enterprise during what is certain to become an age of even greater upheaval.

Each “Leadership Question” he raises helps his reader to focus on an important strategic objective. For example:

o How should we define a reset moment for our organization? (Page 20)
o Do we have the right CHRO for unlocking innovation potential?” (52)
o Which alliances make the best partners when developing workplace initiatives? Trade associations? Chambers of commerce? (71)
o How to respond most effectively to dissenters, malcontents, and poor cultural fits? (94)
o Why do we need talent analytics? Why not let people trust their gut instincts to find the talent we need? (120)
o What are our organization’s specific imperatives for achieving inclusion and diversity? (141)
o How best to assess the skills and capabilities of those who comprise our our current workforce?

Taylor shares his thoughts about the dos and don’ts to keep in mind when attempting to achieving these and other strategic objectives.

In an excellent article published by the McKinsey Quarterly, “How COVID Designed the Next Normal Operating System,” Gregor Jost, Deepak Mahadevan, David Pralong, and Marcus Sieberer observe, “The strongest companies are reinventing themselves through next-normal operating models, capitalizing on this malleable moment and the resulting spread of agile processes, nimbler ways of working, and increased speed and productivity.”

I highly recommend this book at a time when workplace dynamics are more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I can remember. That said, Johnny Taylor would be among the first to suggest it would be a fool’s errand for those who read his book to attempt to apply all of the material in it. They must select whatever is most relevant to their own organization’s circumstances.


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