S2 E108 — Why Our Reinvention Efforts Failed (and Yours Will Too)

What took five years to build fell apart in six months, because we neglected the most important lesson — building a capacity inside your company to continually repeat your reinvention, revitalization and renewal processes.

“5”  Steve Harvey, 62:When you are sensitive to what drains you and what gives you energy, decisions become easy. You’ll do only what fills you up or what is so important that it’s worth being drained over.” Capricorn

Hi and welcome to Friday’s Episode 108 in Season 2 of  “My Pandemic Year Natural Experiment” on this 4th day of September in the fall of 2020.  

“The Tau of Steves: What You Don’t Know Could Fill a Book”

Table of Contents

Season One and Two are a two-year examination of how bits of wisdom changed during the “normal” pre-pandemic and then in this unfolding pandemic year.

Previously in Season Two, the Pandemic Year

S2 E107Leaving Us Adrift in a Sea of Change;  S2 E106How We Brainwashed Curmudgeons; S2 E105When Cosmic Leads to Decline, Pair Extremes Intentionally

Related from Season One, the Normal Year

S1 E108After So Many Defeats is it Time to Catch a New Trajectory?; S1 E107How Do You Rate Your Sense of Curiosity?; S1 E106 — Attempts to Upset 9 of My Life Stages Apple Cart; S1 E105Will Fortune Smile on Us Later in the Evening?;


This is a continuation of “Volume Two Manuscript — WorkFit” a work-in-progress.  In previous episodes we described Start Up, Emerging Growth, Rapid Growth, Sustained Growth, Maturity, Decline and now Reinvention stages.  

Reinvention without Decline

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

We described a mini-case of a major decline,  Part One, Part Two and Part Three. And, before that we profiled two mini case studies about what it was like working behind the scenes at a mature company in a financial, in a consumer industry and two more in another century-old university system — Part One and Two. 

Now we add to both Part One and Part Two with the third Reinvention installment, a behind-the-scenes at nurturing Intrapreneurial Projects.

Reinvention Part Three

23.  Organizational Development – Technology

Raul joined my team, having transferred from our Texas plant for an IT opportunity which was for the night shift — not what he was told before he moved his family. 

I put together a 5-year plan that called for all of us to become internal consultants instead of performing stand-up training only. Our Organization Development (OD) team became 14, with a budget that went from $60K to $600K thanks to Raul’s efforts.

Cross-Training for Factory of the Future

To satisfy Ed’s Factory of the Future vision, focused product lines required technology (BAMCS) and soft skills training.  We didn’t have the face-to-face facilities available, so ironically I met with the survivors from the declining engineering and construction firm I previously worked for and negotiated leases for our curriculum, but directed by Raul.

Raul successfully applied to the State of California for re-training funds earmarked to prevention layoffs and up-skilling disruptions required for the Factory of the Future transformation.  

We were successful in expanding the initial BAMCS contract to Engineering and Software, for a total of $1.4 million.  So that the World Class cultural change included more than manufacturing: 

    • My team and external brain trust members addressed the accelerating change in high tech environment during merger, restructuring and revitalization. 
    • How to manage careers in a rapidly changing environment, when jobs that exist today hadn’t been even thought of by the formal system two years earlier. 
    • When project  development teams  had to deliver new products in ever increasingly shorter time frames and be able to anticipate the probability of a surprise breakthrough technology development from a competitor and how to respond to it almost routinely.  

From CareerSmarts to Intrapreneurial Start Ups

And what to do with project team members which would hit the wall and disband.

We launched a CareerSmarts program  for individual knowledge workers. It changed the paradigm of getting ahead in the corporate world, through loyalty, seniority, and job security in fixed career paths — to creating your own job by proposing an intrapreneurially opportunity. 

    • By figuring out what the corporation’s customers would value in the future (over the next 3 to 5 years), 
    • Asking how I would have to prepare to match my expertise and passions to their changing expectations, 
    • Identifying what new or improved product or service this would translate into, and
    • Who I would have to persuade in the organization to begin to address it.

Reinventing, Reevaluating Core Competencies and Technology 

The Strategic Safari program focused on the need created for disbanding project teams and emerging leaders to reinvent themselves in a new intrapreneurial direction.  We helped them work through:

    • How to reevaluate their core competencies and technology packages, 
    • How to gauge new product directions, 
    • How to win support and resources for their new initiatives and 
    • Where to get advice,  gain access and needed missing talents in our emerging informal network.  
    • How are you qualified to serve the customer segment that you  have identified?

Disbanding Projects, Core Competencies, New Technologies

My OD core design group included specialists in video, software, educational television, advertising, and telecommunications. The “Transition Tank” prototype had a front end creative adventure, but ultimately was conducted back in work.  Transfer of training was a major design concern. It took twice as long to prototype it, but we did and it was powerful.  

Taking a risk before the prototype was ready, I was asked to address our corporation’s user group.  I described how we were working towards “Taking the Risk out of Implementing New Technologies”.  

Then, after my team earned “Company of the Year” award, I addressed the National Conference for Training and Development, but with a twist.  I mimicked how we used sailboats, the ocean, video, music and other tools successfully to create a breakthrough environment in the presentation itself.

All Good Things Come to an End

But, when, Ed, our senior executive sponsor couldn’t resist the temptations headhunters persistently dangled in front of him, it was over abruptly.  

What took five years to institutionalize fell apart in six months, because we neglected the most important lesson — building a capacity inside your company to continually repeat your reinvention, revitalization and renewal processes. 

It was like we snapped back to a more traditional Mature organization. Single-loop learning occurs as organizations compare their performance to a set of pre-established standards and try to make appropriate adjustments.

Double-loop learning, on the other hand, requires periodic reassessments of the established standards themselves to ensure that they remain relevant. 

Lessons we wished we had learned

The central processes of an organization includes learning, making decisions, and managing relationships with the environment. Each of these is influenced by the leadership, cultural, and structural factors.

Buffering Against Uncertainty:  Momentum, Intertia, Inflexibility

Organizations have a tendency to buffer themselves from their markets in order to operate in as smooth and trouble-free a way as possible. 

They look for customers who value price or quality and steer clear of those who want state-of-the-art equipment. 

We advocated for taking the opposite tack under our executive sponsor. But, our division fell victim having to cope with external uncertainty and inertia in the division.

Second, and more importantly, buffering reduces the occasions for organizational learning and adaptation. So organizations become closed systems that roll forward but rarely change course.

Knowledge Work:  Continuous Learning,  Local Innovation

Reinvention requires a good deal of formal education and the ability to acquire and to apply theoretical and analytical knowledge. To succeed at it:

    • Require a different approach to work and
    • A different mind-set 
    • With a habit of continuous learning and 
    • A belief that Innovation is everywhere; the problem is learning from it  

 Few companies know how to learn from local innovation which goes on at every level of a company when “employees confront problems, deal with unforeseen contingencies, or work their way around breakdowns in normal procedures.”  

Few companies know how to capitalize on local innovation to improve their overall effectiveness.  The benefit of capturing local innovation by studying the innovation at the front lines and developing technologies is to turn being a large company into an advantage rather than a bureaucratic traffic jam.


“4”  Steve Zahn, 51:People use problems as ways to connect with others. Even so, be mindful of what you want to get involved in, as things will not be as simple to solve as they first appear.” Scorpio

It took five years, but I wouldn’t have changed anything except for the loss of our executive sponsor.

Random ones that make me want change my sign.

“3”  Steve Howey, 42:You’re afraid to commit, and that’s because you don’t know when the commitment is over. Put a button on it. When you give it a timeframe, especially a short one, fear is allayed and talent rises up.” Cancer

Not knowing when the commitment is over seems more relevant to this pandemic more than anything else.

“4”  Steve Aoki, 41: There’s a ticker tape running through your head. Sometimes, you stop reading it. Possibly, thoughts get so repetitive you tune them out. More likely, they run too fast and better cognition requires slowing down.” Sagittarius

Speed kills, right! The same goes for our internal dialogues.  

“5”  Steve Harvey, 62:When you are sensitive to what drains you and what gives you energy, decisions become easy. You’ll do only what fills you up or what is so important that it’s worth being drained over.” Capricorn

Boy, is this ever not going to be the case?  Or, is this the lot of an introvert?

“5” Steve Nash, 45:You want the best for yourself and your loved ones. Bigger is not always better though. Today, it will be the smaller investments that have the best ratio of value to effort.” Aquarius 

At this reinvention part of my career, the risk was very high.  And, no matter what I had to sock my 401K contributions away for some future time.  And, now I’m glad I did.

“4”  Steve Jobs, (1955 – 2011): Suffering is usually linked to a distortion of thought. Eliminate the distortion and what’s left will be a manageable problem that is far less painful with which to cope.” Pisces

At he end of the day … is when my thought are most distorted.  So, much so that I need to turn off all my devices and exit my office.

What’s Going On

Literally Bottled and Set Adrift from KnowWhere Atoll 

    • @knowlabs followers of one or more of my 35 digital magazines organically grew from 4906 to 4990.




    • Saw the movie, didn’t realize that one of my favorite authors, Michael Connelly — his detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch book series and Amazon Prime series — also wrote, “The Lincoln Lawyer” which I just finished. Gotta tell you I can’t not see his lead character (Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half brother) as anyone else but Matthew McConaughey. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Inspired by: Holiday Mathis – Creators Syndicate


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