The Employee Engagement Network

Change the Culture, Change the Game: A book review by Bob Morris


Change the Culture, Change the Game: The Breakthrough Strategy for Energizing Your Organization and Creating Accountability for Results
Roger Connors and Tom Smith
Portfolio/The Penguin Group (2011)

A comprehensive, cohesive, and cost-effective methodology to achieve breakthrough results

In Leading Change, James O’Toole suggests that much (most?) of the resistance to change initiatives is the result of what he so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” Roger Connors and Tom Smith fully agree. In a previous collaboration, The Oz Principle, they explain how to get desired results through individual and organizational accountability. They introduce Steps to Accountability, a sequence of actions: See It (i.e. recognize what must be done), Own It (i.e. make an investment in as well as a commitment to getting it done), Solve It (i.e. recognize and eliminate barriers with whatever resources may be needed), and Do It (i.e. producing the right results in the right way, as promised). Connors and Smith also suggest that people tend to live and work (most of the time) either above or below “The Line” that divides accountable behavior from behavior that is not.

As they note, “We use the term ‘result,’ rather than ‘goal’ because result implies that either you will achieve something or that you have already achieved it. In contrast, ‘goal’ suggests that you would like to have something happen, but might not accomplish it. A goal tends to be hopeful and directional, but not absolute.” In this context, I reminded of what Thomas Edison observed long ago: “Vision without execution is hallucination.” Apparently the Yoda agrees: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Connors and Smith devote Part One (Chapters 1-5) to explaining how to create a Culture of Accountability, define the results to be achieved, take effective action to produce them, identify core believes that guide and direct behavior, provide experiences that support efforts, and reinforce results to sustain their beneficial impact. In Part Two (Chapters 6-10), they explain how to align cultural values with change initiatives, apply effective three Culture Management Tools they recommend (i.e. focused feedback, focused storytelling, celebration of incremental progress), and three skills needed to move the culture from where it has been to where it should be (i.e. Lead the Change, Respond to the Feedback, and Be Facilitative). Obviously, it would be a fool’s errand to adopt and then attempt to apply all of Connors and Smith’s recommendations. It remains for each reader to select what is most relevant and responsive to her or his needs and those of her or his organization.

With regard to buy-in of the plan, once formulated, Connors and Smith suggest and then discuss Five Principles of Full Enrollment (Pages 196-213):

1. Start with accountability
2. Get people ready for the change.
3. Begin with the top and intact teams.
4. Establish a process control and keep it honest.
5. Design for maximum involvement.

Those who need additional assistance with achieving full (or at least maximum) enrollment, I highly recommend John Kotter’s A Sense of Urgency and his more recent book, Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down, co-authored with Lorne A. Whitehead. For supplementary readings, I also highly recommend Dean Spitzer’s Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success and Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, co-authored by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson.


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