Cross-organization Partnerships Create Systems Thinkers: an example from Australia where I saw a real native platypus

Cross-organization Partnerships Create Systems Thinkers: an example from Australia where I saw a real native platypus

My work these days includes initiatives that create more integrated and accountable partnerships between organizations that provide services to individuals and families. The range of services across the different partnerships is exciting: food security, legal services, housing, early childhood development, primary medical care, dental care, behavioral health care, parenting skills and violence prevention, school systems and academic support programs.

There are many lessons to learn from these evolving partnerships. Here is one that I was not expecting, that helps people over a hurdle common to all change management work: Working between multiple organizations to achieve shared goals helps individuals move quickly to become systems thinkers.

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Powerful Learning Events: fight Slides Default Disorder

Powerful Learning Events: fight Slides Default Disorder

You are on the agenda for the meeting. You have great stuff to share. It’s project results, or the work plan for a new project, or a budget update, or a lesson in your area of expertise. How do you prepare?

If you are like most people I work with, you open up your favorite presentation software and start to turn your information into bullet points and diagrams and a few relevant photos. Maybe a couple of fun animal photos or a New Yorker cartoon. Good to go!

Except wait: Slides are not always the best way to present information to a group for maximum absorption and application to their work. Slides are so expected, and so static, that they can immediately shut down all the energy and ideas in the meeting. When someone launches a PowerPoint presentation, the whole room can deflate and tune out.

How do you know when to use slides and when you can avoid them? And what other options are there?

Let’s start with how attention and learning work in a group setting, and a concept I use: The Rule of Two Things.

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Powerful Learning Events: shake off the old sit-and-listen approach

Powerful Learning Events: shake off the old sit-and-listen approach

I just spent a few days with my family. At the beach in South Carolina between daytime sand castles and evening charades, my 7-year-old niece asked me about my job. I often hem and haw in trying to describe my work, particularly to kids. This time, I stole from my recent article on Itzhak Perlman and said, “I am a teacher, but not for kids, for adults.”

“Oh,” said Juliet, who laughed, no doubt imagining her second-grade classroom but full of adults. “Cool!”

We went back to hosing off beach chairs and boogie boards.

I was pleased with this exchange. I teach adults. Meaning, I facilitate knowledge and its application.

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You Know You're a Teacher, Right?

You Know You're a Teacher, Right?

As a leader of change in complex systems, your many hats include a teacher hat. Maybe your teacher hat is a mortarboard that you would wear while beaming proudly over a graduation ceremony, or a bright yellow visor you wear as you supervise recess and try to keep small children from killing each other, you have a teacher hat. Perhaps you can see yourself in each of these hats at different times, depending on how well things are going in your work.

My point: As a change leader, you are wearing it. You are a teacher.

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The Short Book Helping Me Navigate a Confusing and Risky Time

The Short Book Helping Me Navigate a Confusing and Risky Time

As I write this, it has been a month since the 2016 presidential election in the United States.  Upheaval is all but guaranteed in my work world: health care, population health and health equity. What is for-sure-guaranteed-yes-ma’am: plenty more antagonistic rhetoric, partial truths and cynicism.


In the first two weeks or so after the election, I was spinning. And not the cycling exercise class spinning. Intellectual and emotional spinning. The future in health care and the future for the social issues that are most important to me seemed like a Mobius strip, twisting and turning with no end up. National news outlets were no help: This may happen. That may happen. No, that thing can’t happen because of x, y, z factors.

Just this past week, I stopped spinning. Four things helped me the most:

1)     Talking to friends and family who share my values and are wise to the ways of politics, the economy and other related realms of life.

2)     Taking the opportunity to decide what social issues are most important to me, and making a plan to support those causes in new ways.

3)     Basic self-care including exercise and enough sleep.

4)     The book The Four Agreements.

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