The Change Decision 2023 Family Christmas LetterJan 01, 2024
Dear Family and Friends,
As we sit here at the start of a new year and reflect on the last, we see this past year as a series of extremes. Chinese spy balloons drifted over North America, yet Presidents Biden and Xi met for the first time. Open AI brings science fiction-like capability to the world, but Silicon Valley Bank fails. Finland was added to NATO, but war continued in Ukraine, and Hamas attacked Israel.
For The Change Decision (and for Roxanne and Ed personally), it has been mostly upside. We have had a good year that saw us beginning to travel again to meet clients. Not always in garden spots, but every trip had something memorable, sometimes an enjoyable experience, sometimes a learning one. We also advanced significantly in our offerings for classes and corporate workshops. Which brought us to the start of the year in…
We began, as all lovers of warm weather do, by going to Cleveland…in a snowstorm. For two people whose idea of a good vacation is sitting on a beach, Cleveland in a snowstorm is the other end of the spectrum. However, the trip warmed our hearts in that we got to see people - in person! It was our first work travel since COVID. It seems hard to believe that we could have done so much work sitting in front of a computer talking to people on camera, but we did as did hundreds of millions of others.
We stayed in a hotel adjacent to the office building where we met our clients. When it is snowing outside in Cleveland that is a good move! As we got to the office on the first day, we were transported back to all those years of meeting in conference rooms where we were checking on the snacks and getting the projector to work and finding space for everyone. It was good to be back. We even finished the time with an impromptu cocktail hour reminding us again how wonderful human interaction is.
Later that month, Microsoft invested $10B in OpenAI. Even a company that focuses on human interaction to grow Joy at Work cannot help but notice a seachange technology. Although many are talking about Artificial intelligence, relatively few truly know what it is and what good or bad can come from it. What does seem to be clear is that disruption is coming to many aspects of our lives. Change is in the air! Which brought us fully into…
News moved beyond speculation and into hard facts that Ukraine would mount a counteroffensive in the Spring. Anticipation and with it, speculation about the probability of success was in full force. As the first anniversary of the attack by Russia drew near, many wondered if this would be a significant turning point in Europe’s first major war since the end of World War II.
On a happier front, the Circle Center Adult Day Service, a nonprofit that Ed is involved in, had a momentous event. Circle Center helps older adults stay longer in their homes by providing a safe and engaging place for them to spend the day while their loved ones and caregivers are at work or just taking a break. It is a marvelous organization that is charting the future for how we care for older adults so that their lives remain safe and fulfilled. In December 2022, a mural was completed on the side of the building depicting four of the participants in medieval garb. Designed by talented RVA-based artist Nico Cathcart, and inspired by the photos of Caroline Shelnut, the massive 75’x18′ mural inspires us all to think about the ways in which older adults can be held up as the treasurers that they are. Over the winter, news articles started to pick up the story as the muralist was recognized with awards for her work.
Later in the Winter, Roxanne and Ed experienced another in-person event, traveling to Charlotte, NC for an ACMP conference. It was wonderful to talk with people face to face. Many were those we had met in the previous three years and had never seen in person. As a Qualified Education Provider (QEP) meaning The Change Decision can teach classes that allow people to become Certified Change Management Professionals (CCMP), Roxanne and Ed were invited to teach a class on Data-Driven Change Management. The response was overwhelming. The class sold out and then more seats were squeezed into the room for a Saturday morning class on data and Change Management. This would be the beginning of a series of events highlighting data-driven change as an expertise for The Change Decision.
Shortly after the Charlotte, NC session, Ed would speak at the ACMP DC chapter's annual conference again highlighting aspects of data-driven change. Again, the session was full! This led to moving through the approval process for The Change Decision’s Data-Driven Change Management course to be approved by ACMP as a qualified course. Again and again, The Change Decision would be asked to provide sessions on data-driven change management. The marriage of change and data and Joy at Work has become intriguing. Which brought us to…
We began spring with a quick trip to Washington DC to see the Cherry Blossoms. Always a gamble on getting the timing right to see the blossoms at their fullest, we lucked out this year with the blooms at their best. This was right at the start of delivering our Change & Joy: Change Management Certification course. After a significant upgrade, we were excited to offer the revised version. Having made the live part of the course even more interactive by recording the more conceptual portions for viewing whenever students could, we thought we had achieved the ultimate version. A version that we would attempt to do twice in 2023. Little did we know that demand would bump so much that we would do the course three times in 2023, but also (because we can’t help ourselves) revise the course before each session with new recordings and a completely revised change management toolkit.
Although the idea of the change management toolkit was originally for the Change & Joy: Change Management Certification course, repeated requests from companies to license the toolkit would change our thinking about the toolkit and chart part of our course for 2024. Companies seem to be increasingly interested in a codified process for doing change management and with that, they want a toolkit. Three Fortune 200 companies have asked The Change Decision to help them advance their change management capabilities by providing a change management toolkit and even guiding the building of their practice. This sent Roxanne off to product management “school” where she immersed herself in the process of building a change management toolkit that could be used by people with varying levels of change expertise. The result was a multi-level toolkit that would scale from a new manager encountering their first change leadership opportunity to a seasoned change professional guiding a multimillion-dollar change across thousands of employees in different countries.
Roxanne’s immense work on this project took her not only into product management but product marketing and a significant upgrade in her audio-visual production skills. All of these were needed to create a toolkit that would provide just the right guidance at the right time for the level of change experience. The companies we worked with were very different in their approaches to work. One repeatedly wanted the “tl;dr” version (too long, didn’t read) driving Roxanne to hone each element to its core so that nothing extra was there. Another wanted a fully robust toolkit that the most seasoned change practitioner could use. Not wanting to make multiple toolkits, Roxanne devised a nested approach where each piece could be built upon so that the complexity of the change and the experience of the manager would drive usage. It worked! Reviews have been rave, and now we are exploring the next phase of toolkit development, a software platform! Which brought us to…
With the actors and writers on strike, entertainment was left to reruns and diving deeper into the streaming services archives. Although there were many concerns of the strikers, one new one was the impact of AI on a person who makes a living from their creativity. What happens if that creativity can be swept into a computer model that generates new content off of what they have created in the past? Who owns that new creation? It would take months to settle. Likely the answer arrived at will not be satisfactory in just a bout of time. We have much left to understand about the implications of AI. For The Change Decision, this idea of what is owned and unique rekindled conversations about what that means for us. The answer of course was Joy at Work. That answer would show itself to be powerful in an unexpected place.
At the end of 2002, Ed began to fret over the possibility of a recession. That fear was in the news and in the conversations of so many. It seemed smart to contemplate how The Change Decision would survive yet another hit like COVID. Ed began to look at government contracts. The word from everyone had been that responding to government RFPs was time-consuming and lengthy with the selection often coming down to the lowest price bidder. Still, some work is better than no work and if a recession were to come the possibility of no work seemed higher. The previous year in a fit of early panic, Ed completed an RFP for a federal government agency and found that all of the complaints about responding to a government RFP were, to a large extent, true. The RFP response ended up at 100 pages, and The Change Decision lost the bid based on one small element of the pricing that, at first look, appeared to be inconsequential. It was frustrating.
Nevertheless, Ed jumped into completing RFP responses for the Commonwealth of Virginia (thinking maybe the state-level RFP responses would be less work. They weren’t!). But there was one big difference in how these responses were handled. Joy at Work was placed in the first paragraph of every response and laced throughout the document. The thinking was that these agencies would either love or hate Joy at Work. They loved it! The hours of work to complete these RFP responses paid off. So far, three agencies have said yes to Joy at Work and The Change Decision has three multiyear contracts that begin in January of 2024. Amazing!
We got to finish the summer with a milestone birthday. Our oldest daughter turned 30! Remembering our 30th birthdays, it was both wonderful and a bit life-shifting to see our oldest turn 30. Still, it was a wonderful mid-summer treat. We got to finish the summer with a visit to our middle daughter who lives in Florida with her Navy pilot husband who just completed the final portion of his flight training and was with his operational squadron and already prepping to deploy. With the oldest married to an analyst and the middle daughter to a Navy pilot, Ed has been feeling like he did something right as a Dad. All those feelings had us soar into…
Joining their brethren in the TV and film industries the United Auto Workers went on strike, but with a more targeted strategy. Looking to disrupt but not disable the auto industry, the UAW charted a new path in employee empowerment. As it seems with most strikes, the issues were varied and very laden with bad feelings going back years. With both industries’ workers on strike the country seems even more at a precarious place. But even more was to come.
On Oct 7th, Hamas struck Israel killing over 1200 and taking more than 100 hostage. Israel’s aggressive response has divided world opinion as to which is the more aggrieved side. The US reflects this division which impacts institutions from Universities to governments to private businesses. As more die in the Gaza Strip and more is revealed about Hamas’ fortifications and tunnels, the divide only widens. As the year completes, it is unclear what the end will be and certainly not what the next phase will be. What is certain is that more will die.
Although in no way a balm to the pain that so many have had around the world, The Change Decision moved forward to bring back DisruptRVA, a speaker series with an interesting but challenging format. Each talk is 5 minutes with 20 slides each on a 15-second timer. It is a fast-paced format designed to drive speakers to a concise message that inspires actions from the audience when they leave the event. Our theme was “Making work a part of a life well-lived.” The event had been absent from Richmond for four years because of COVID. Bringing it back at VCU Business School and managing the event with the Institute for Transformative Leadership was a catalyst to all that we hoped to achieve with the event. The talks did inspire as did the reception which was provided by Groovin’ Gourmets, one of our favorites. We heard talk on self-care, on better aging, on taking risks, and on better ways to achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion. We heard from not only those out in the working world but also students, a first for DisruptRVA. With this success, we are looking forward to bringing the event back next year. The following week Ed and Roxanne spoke at the Disrupt Charlottesville event. Doing this format solo is a challenge. Doing it as a pair is like trying to tango while giving a motivational speech. It is not for wimps. You can check out how we did with our talk on Joy at Work here.
With all this talk of Joy at Work, we were back to teaching our Change & Joy: Change Management Certification course. This time with the largest group of participants we had ever had, most coming through referrals from previous participants. With all the work that Roxanne had done to do yet another upgrade to the course, we were so pleased with the reaction. Truly Joy at Work for us!
We finished the autumn with a trip to the Visual Arts Center’s Craft + Design Show which The Change Decision sponsored. It is a fabulous display of human creativity and ingenuity. We brought a group of ten friends to experience what artists, craftspeople, and designers can create with a few tools and impressive imagination. Every time it is an experience that brightens our outlook on what is possible. Which landed us here in…
As we look back on the year we see two things. For the world, there are signs of turmoil everywhere. The Middle East is once again at war with real concern that it may break out into a wider conflict. Europe is staring at the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Collectively, humanity seems incapable of lasting and just peace. Still, we remain hopeful. Our ideas about Joy at Work will not solve the world’s struggles to find peace, but we have seen them transform groups. Improvement is possible. Peace is possible. Joy at Work is possible.
We are optimistic about 2024. Optimistic that if good people come together it is possible to improve families, communities, companies, countries, and even the world. It won’t all happen in 2024, but it could improve. Here’s hoping that we can each find our way to make that improvement.