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Mastering the Challenges of Leading Change by H. James Dallas

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Chapter 10Put Out Every Fire

Congratulations on getting to this point in the book. You now have a new approach for setting priorities. You understand how to navigate politics. You've got a grasp on the people.

Now there's just one more thing to prepare for: total disaster. An experienced crisis management person once told me that 75 percent of the planning for most crises can be done in advance, yet hardly anyone he had worked with ever took the time for it. No matter how well you plan and execute, “unknown unknowns” can emerge during or after implementation and create sparks. In IT, for example, we spend hours and hours doing stress testing to make sure a new system has enough capacity to handle heavy loads. And yet, almost without fail, when we launch, the system runs slow. Sometimes it even crashes under loads that we “proved” it could handle. I've been burned more times than I can count.

Practical problems become morale problems as teams tire and frustrations rise. These become the defining moments of your leadership. A fire is either quickly snuffed out, or it engulfs the entire initiative and you with it.

Hopefully, you've already positioned yourself for success by using the Getting Lost with Confidence Matrix to set expectations. Too many leaders try to campaign for their initiatives by giving key stakeholders—in particular, the people with the power to shut you down before you even get started—a false sense of security. Risk management is a key task in the work plan, ...

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