For a comedic crash course on the Illusion of Explanatory Depth, watch the video I quote in the chapter from Alex Nickel, where he tests out the experiment on his classmates. If you’re curious about the swashbuckling world of turnaround specialists, start with James Shein’s Reversing the Slide. Shein’s book is both sharp and irreverent, making for an engaging read. See Chapter 9 for a look at GAAP vs. the 13-week-cash-flow model. Intrigued and mildly disconcerted by the idea that we might not know ourselves as well as we think we do? I was. Tim Wilson is a wealth of knowledge on the topic—check out this episode of Hidden Brain to hear more from him. To see what it’s like for a principal to step into the reality of a student, watch the PBS NewsHour segment I mention in the chapter. You’ll see Assistant Principal Karen Ritter run sprints, battle back-to-back sections of Algebra, and write an essay alongside her ninth-grade shadowee, Alan Garcia.
I learned about the US Air Force’s cockpit study from Todd Rose’s fascinating book The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness. Rose, who headed the Mind, Brain, and Education program at Harvard, breaks down the myth of measuring individuals against the average in schools and at work. He’s really good at showing how there are usually multiple pathways to success: the three approaches children take when learning to read, the seven distinct routes to career success, and more. For a more psychological take on change, including a closer look at the power of bright spots thinking, check out Switch, co-written by my brother Chip and me.
Linda Metcalf literally wrote the book on the Miracle Question, a step-by-step guide to seeing your way quickly through confounding situations to meaningful and lasting change. Although its primary focus is on personal relationships at home—your spouse, your kids, your relatives—it also includes some advice on how to build more effective connections within the workplace. For more on upstream thinking, might I offer my book Upstream? Or if you want the short version, listen to my interview on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert. If you’re a cat person or know someone who is—or if you’re interested in learning more about how two vets managed to save more than two million cats—check out the delightful “Unleashing Social Change” podcast episode with Kate Hurley.
Lee Anne Fennell describes the linear and non-linear paths projects can take in this article for Behavioral Scientist. The illustrations of the different paths might help you better understand the relationship between the inputs and outputs for the project you’re building. For more on how analogs and antilogs can help get your ideas off the ground, check out Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model by John Mullins and Randy Komisar. Mullins, a professor at London Business School, and Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins, kick the tires on the best-laid business plans of start-ups, non-profits, and companies. This tip is somewhat tangential to the book’s focus, but if you were intrigued by the St. John’s operating room case and are interested in a deep dive into patient flow / variability / predictability, check out this presentation by Eugene Litvak. Fascinating stuff.
When you Google “theory of change,” you’re met with an onslaught of resources—some good, some bad, some genuinely ugly (there should be a limit on the number of arrows allowed in one flowchart). Here are some of my favorites: This guide co-created by two research centers at Stanford is about as comprehensive as you could hope for—complete with videos, exercises, and advice. If you’re craving step-by-step instructions for developing an elaborate theory of change for your organization, I’d head here. A “Driver Diagram” is a related but distinct tool which, as the name suggests, relies on identifying the elements of a system that “drive” a certain outcome. More on those here. Lastly, I want to share a couple of resources to reiterate the importance of knowing where you’re headed before you head there. This paper and accompanying Q&A with Max Bazerman illuminates how when goals go wrong, they can go very wrong.
If you have your sights set on a personal rather than an organizational Day 1, How to Change by Katy Milkman is a natural first stop. Her evidence-based approach revolves around “turning an uphill battle into a downhill one.” I briefly mentioned Michael Kaiser’s book The Art of the Turnaround. (“You can’t save your way to health.”) It is excellent—an insider’s view of how Kaiser turned around struggling (and famous) arts institutions such as the Royal Opera House and the Kennedy Center. For a page-turning account of Microsoft’s efforts to avoid getting wiped out by the coming Internet tidal wave, check out Kathy Rebello’s 1996 BusinessWeek story “Inside Microsoft: The Untold Story of How the Internet Forced Bill Gates to Reverse Course” (It’s behind a subscriber paywall but is also accessible, free of charge, in two parts: here and here.)
An online search of “DOWNTIME + waste” yields a lot of similar results, most from consultancies specializing in lean. Most do the same thing of summarizing the eight types of waste. Here is one graphic I especially liked, and here’s a downloadable DOWNTIME worksheet. As a palate cleanser, enjoy this comedic take on what happens when “closing the gaps” at Chick-fil-A goes too far. For more on the theory of constraints, I’m not sure if anything can top the classic 1984 business book The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox. It offers practical lessons and examples on how to evaluate an entire system (versus its individual components) as well as insights on organizational culture, leadership and teamwork. And did I mention it’s a novel?
For a deeper look at Gabriele Wulf’s work on motivation and attention, see her 2021 paper (open-access version), coauthored with Rebecca Lewthwaite, which describes her OPTIMAL theory of performance. Dr. Doug Eby, the Southcentral Foundation’s Executive Vice President of Specialty Services, offers a look into their radically different approach to primary care in this talk about the Nuka Model (part 1, Eby starts at 6:15, and part 2). For more on how Dianne Connery started tapping into her community to resuscitate and transform the Pottsboro public library, check out her inspiring presentation from 2016, “Flip the Script: Changing the Direction of the Library.” In this video, Henrik Kniberg shares how the Spotify engineering team lets their people drive, but makes sure they’re driving in the right direction. The key, Kniberg explains around the three-minute-mark, is maximizing both “alignment” and “autonomy.”
If you were as charmed as I was by Harold Lloyd’s determination to bump up every titter to a chuckle, you might enjoy Audience-ology: How Moviegoers Shape the Films We Love by Kevin Goetz. He weaves together colorful anecdotes to illustrate the role of audience feedback in Hollywood—from the near-failure of Paranormal Activity to the surprising enthusiasm for John Tucker Must Die among teenage boys. For more on the HappyOrNot terminals used by the San Francisco 49ers, check out David Owen’s New Yorker story “Customer Satisfaction at the Push of a Button,” which traces their fascinating history. (The first installation was in a small grocery store in western Finland.) For a master class onÇ more effective feedback, don’t miss Paul Bambrick-Santoyo’s book Get Better Faster: A 90-Day Plan For Coaching New Teachers. Although its focus is on school leaders, Bambrick-Santoyo’s insights can help with many different coaching and training situations.
Richard Gibney isn’t the only trailblazer in boosting patients to the top of their range. You can read more about Gibney’s efforts and a similar initiative at a Dallas healthcare system in this Harvard Business Review article. For more on letting people drive, listen to this podcast episode with James Daunt. Daunt is the independent bookseller who turned around Waterstones, the UK’s largest book retailer. He did so, in large part, by empowering the staff to decide how they could best serve their communities. If you enjoyed the T-Mobile TEX teams story, be sure to check out my original source, Matthew Dixon’s “Reinventing Customer Service: How T-Mobile Achieved Record Levels of Quality and Productivity,” published in 2018 in HBR. It’s deeply reported and a great read. (Btw I also loved Dixon’s book The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty, co-written with Nick Toman and Rick DeLisi—essential reading for anyone looking to get to TOR in customer service.)
David Feinberg walks the talk when it comes to treating patients like family. His work was a major source of inspiration for this chapter—for more on his leadership in transforming the UCLA Health System, I’d recommend Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph Michelli. If the “middle problem” of motivation resonated with you, it’s worth picking up a copy of Get It Done: Surprising Lessons from the Science of Motivation by Ayelet Fishbach. She draws on the burgeoning field of motivation science to develop a framework for navigating personal change.
For more on the inspiration behind Sirio Libanes’ joy in work efforts, see the IHI’s white paper describing the joy in work framework. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Tina Rosenberg has written a nice series of articles about the Rapid Results strategy, see here, here, and here. In the world of social impact, where the north star is “impact” rather than profit, nonprofits often find themselves in a Dodge truck-esque situation. Well-meaning “success metrics” imposed by funders often turn out to be woefully miscalibrated to the organizational mission. In Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good, Ann Mei Chang spotlights leaders who have managed to reorient away from status quo solutions and empty metrics in the “relentless pursuit of impact.”