Big Ideas to Big Results – Interview with Mike Kanazawa

Michael Kanazawa and I met almost a year ago at the 800-CEO-Read Pow Wow event in Chicago, a gathering of authors and thought leaders in business and leadership. I joined Mike for his launch party of his new book BIG Ideas to BIG Results in April of this year and more recently had a chance to catch up and talk about his work.

Michael is a leading authority on the topics of corporate transformation and strategy execution. He serves as chief executive of Dissero Partners, a consulting firm focused on helping companies more quickly and predictably turn their BIG Ideas into BIG Results. He has worked with numerous high growth companies and global corporations including AT&T, Anadigics, Intel, PG&E, Schlumberger and Symantec. He has been quoted and featured in major media, including Fox Business News, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He also blogs at recently published his manifesto titled, “People Don’t Hate Change, They Hate How You’re Trying to Change Them.” It has created a good buzz and I wanted to ask him a few more questions about it.

Here is our discussion…

RS: Why do so many leaders find it difficult to lead change and transformations in their organizations?

MK: First, many of us are promoted into management and leadership jobs with no experience or knowledge of how to effectively lead major change efforts. We don’t learn these skills through school or in most leadership development programs at corporations. And with an overall success rate of change programs at 33%, based on over 40 studies on effectiveness, chances are we’ve all lived through a lot more botched efforts than successful ones in our careers. Many people go into these efforts underestimating the time and care required to get it right.

RS: I’ve heard you talk about doing “more on less.” Can you explain more about that and how it relates to driving change and success?

MK: In many organizations there is little time for strategic thinking, prioritization of work or thinking through effective resource allocation. Every group is running fast against their own goals and often out of alignment with other divisions. Organizations end up in tactical overload. As resources get spread thin or cost cutting is done, leaders fall back on the old rallying cry, “we just need to do more with less!” In the end, these organizations get stuck in gridlock and progress comes to a grinding halt.

One of the big impediments to change is that people are so overloaded with firefighting on a daily basis that they can’t get out in front of things to do fire prevention work or to create strategic change. Shifting your mindset to doing “more on less” can help you and your team to get your work under control and deliver results more quickly on the few initiatives with the greatest business impact.

RS: For an IT leader, what is the best way to help the company change to adopt a new technology solution?

MK: First, if the IT department is implementing technology projects that are not clearly focused on delivering on the top strategic goals of the business, this is tough. Often IT and other departments are working to implement against their own priorities. In companies with weak strategic alignment, departments end up working at odds with each other. In this case, IT leaders need to work with the senior executive team to generate proper alignment between operations and technology goals.

Now, assuming that the company is aligned to a single focus, then the challenge is in engaging end-users to build their ownership and accountability from the beginning. Generating a high-engagement approach to needs assessments, user requirements documents and prototype testing can be a key to success up front.

RS: I know you have said that people should eliminate “buy-in” as a step in change management processes. Can you explain that further?

MK: Many companies put a “buy-in” step between a planning and execution phase. It is viewed as the trigger to get the troops involved in the effort. The problem with this approach is that it is typically too little, too late, to have a real impact on ownership and accountability. People do not like to have change inflicted on them and have no input to things that will impact their daily lives.

As I explain in the eBook, “People Don’t Hate Change, They Hate How You’re Trying To Change Them,” we need to eliminate the concept of “buy-in” as a late step in a change effort. The best way to ensure that people will be ready to implement a change is to engage them in the process of planning the things that will impact them. Clearly there are times when this can’t happen, like when acquisitions of public companies are happening, but those are exceptions to the rule.

RS: Is there one manager you remember working for who left a lasting impression on how you do things today?

MK: Michael Jimenez was my first boss as I left college and went to work for a financial services company as a credit manager (trainee). I went to him with my first loan package and was waiting to fill out the “Approved or Not-Approved” field on the form. He looked at it and said, “fill in your answer first and then we’ll talk about your decision.” I had questions and wanted to get his input to help make the decision, but he sent me back to make my own decision. I filled in “Approved” and he started asking me questions about why that was my decision and did I look at various analyses in making the decision. I had missed a couple and went back to do those. I came back and stood by my decision with him. He said, “Yeah, that looks right. Good decision.” That made my day. My confidence went way up and I was learning how to exercise judgment and having to live by my decisions.

There were other loans where I didn’t make the right call, but he never told me to change my answer. He would simply ask questions until I stumbled upon the same data or perspective that he was looking at and could true up my decision. He had me engaged and taking ownership of the decisions from day one. I was engaged and accountable. If he just had me filling out forms and stacking paperwork for him to make decisions on, the way other branch managers treated trainees, my experience would have been totally different. That was a great lesson.

Again, you can find out more about Michael at:

1. Company:

2. Book:

3. Manifesto: People Don’t Hate Change, They Hate How You’re Trying to Change Them