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Situational Awareness
Leading Change With Integrity
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Twitter Highlights
I send 15-20 tweets per week with links to useful links and research. Here are a few of my latest, including links:

"The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree but are too cowardly to tell you so." -Napoleon Bonaparte

Excellent example of aligning culture, structure and systems with strategy -

Why Google and Sony are turning to nature to inspire their leaders -

Leadership Tips For Organizational Integrity -
@HuffPotSmBiz See my comment.

How does it go - "Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten?" - Cheating At School -

We know that a value proposition is important; what is your values proposition? -

"Truly great companies are built on ideals, not just deals." (Al Watts) More Great Quotes at

2 problems with failed JCP change initiative: neglecting its established brand / customers + alignment failures -

Walmart response to why it opted out of Bangladesh safe factory agreement -

"Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Congrats to CRESA, AFFINITY PLUS, ST FRANCIS hosp & CUMMINS, winners of MBEA Ethics Award

Do you know where your jeans were made? "American Taste for Cheap Clothes Fed Bangladesh Boom" -

It's not just what we do but how we do it; integrity nver goes out of style. -

Morals vs doing what's right ...
29 rules for college grads -

Zhou Enlai, when asked 200 years later about implications of the French Revolution: "Too soon to tell."

Education is what you have left when all the facts are gone." (Brig. Gen'l Daniel Kaufman, West Point)

"Most members of Congress now and care more about politics than substance." - hardly news -

A refreshing take on networking -

"Fear not that thy life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it will never have a beginning." -

Intriguing concept - "Untreu:" breach of trust, or derogation of duty that causes damage to an institution -
If you're wondering why more bankers aren't jailed: "Blind Justice" -

"The Art of the Spinoff" - 'Important lessons here about company spinoffs and managing their identities:

'Raises important questions about when any organization ceases being what it claims to be -

Operational integrity and resilience - real scientific terms, or "lazy tools of opportunistic imagery?" -

The Bitter Agony of Watching Friends Succeed - @exploreB2B

"Working Alone Together:" work spaces for "free-range humans" and entrepreneurs

iThe actual costs of multitasking, technology, nterruptions and distractions -

Stewardship means knowledge of both product origins and "Where Cellphones Go After They Die" -

"You got to have a dream; if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?" (South Pacific musical)

B-Schools Know How You Think, But How Do You Feel? -

J.C. Penney - how not to execute change -

Can futurists really see into the future - or just sell buzzwords? -

"Engineering serendipity" to increase collaboration and innovation -

"One must be something, in order to do something," (Johann Wolgang Von Goethe)

Eight Ways To Undermine Yourself As A Leader -

Work force science - integrating  technology and talent management

"War has five decisive factors; first is a Moral Compass." (Sun Tzu, The Art if War)

It's about "helping the hand that feeds you:" Medical Conflicts of Interest Are Dangerous -

Excellent Clayton Christenson article: managing disruption, measures for business and life -
If you missed it, below is a copy of my last blog: Situational Awareness. Since some may not have seen April's article, Leading Change With Integrity, its introduction follows; you can access the entire article by clicking the link at the end.  Be sure to enter the "Who Said This?" contest at the bottom of this newsletter to win an autographed copy of Navigating Integrity - Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best.
Situational Awareness

On October 22, 1707, four ships and at least 1,400 seamen of Her Majesty's fleet were lost off the Isles of Scilly near England; the primary cause was miscalculation of longitude. On the night of April 14, 1912, the "unsinkable" luxury liner Titanic sank with a loss of more than 1,500 lives when it struck an iceberg in the north Atlantic ocean. Over the course of Ron Johnson's failed turnaround of JC Penney, over 20,000 jobs and $12 billion in market capitalization were lost. Common to all three disasters was a lack of situational awareness - awareness of surroundings and their potential impact.


In my four years as a volunteer with the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, we received regular briefings on how to maintain situational awareness and on its importance. They were lessons that served me well sailing Lake Superior, and lessons that apply to leadership and organization effectiveness as well.  


The USCGA's definition of situational awareness is "the ability to identify, process and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening in a team and the environment with regards to the mission. More simply, it is knowing what is going on around you." Clues to the loss of situational awareness include no one watching for hazards, failure to meet planned targets (or do anything about it,) unresolved discrepancies, and fixation or preoccupation. How many leaders and organizations have been blindsided because "no one was watching for hazards?" Was Ron Johnson so fixated or preoccupied with his untested and failed or failing JCP strategy that he lost situational awareness?


The USCGA points out these typical causes of poor situational awareness:

Faulty perception.

We may not see or understand what's really going on because we are expecting something else. For example, we might strongly believe that sales are low on account of poor promotion, when in reality a product just hasn't hit the mark or is priced incorrectly. Or we miss something because we assume that it's like something else we've experienced, but it isn't. Ron Jonson likely expected that Penney's retail market would respond to innovations like what he experienced at Apple, and missed the signals that it wasn't going to. In some case our mental maps, or filters, get in the way of clearly seeing or interpreting what's going on; we forget that "our map isn't the territory."

Excessive motivation.The drive might be so strong to achieve a certain end, that we ignore signs of danger or that a goal is unattainable. Mountain climbers call this potentially fatal condition "summit fever:" after an arduous journey and within sight of the summit, overly motivated climbers attempt the final ascent despite the approaching deadly storm. BP managers were likely experiencing a variation of "summit fever" when they missed critical danger signs before their Gulf rig exploded.

Complacency.In the immortal words of Mad Magazine's Alfred E: "What, me worry?" After decades of growth, by 1980 General Motors and the American car industry had become complacent and discounted any threat posed by Japanese car manufacturers. Before it was too late, they didn't see, or refused to believe, that car buyers actually preferred stylish, reliable economical and relatively trouble-free automobiles.

Overload and fatigue. Traffic fatalities due to texting reflect the drawbacks of multitasking. Experienced clowns might be able to juggle while riding a unicycle, butthe human mind is not wired to manage multiple conceptual tasks simultaneously, at least not well. Can anyone honestly say that they haven't missed a thing when emailing while attending a meeting? Unreasonable workloads and overly stressed workers are unfortunate byproducts of recession-driven cost reduction measures; there comes a time when there is simply a limit to the volume and complexity of tasks that we can handle.

Distraction. Without focus and discipline, today it is easier than ever to be distracted from what matters most; the trick is not falling prey to "the trivial many at the cost of a vital few." (Pareto's Principle) When executing a jibe in challenging weather, focusing only on properly setting sails without checking for surrounding traffic can be disastrous. (See  "Paying Attention To What Matters") When workers are distracted by threats of layoffs, turf battles, unreasonable pressure to achieve short-term targets or unsafe working conditions, it's likely that they will overlook something of importance.

Poor communication.Stories told about the 1707 Scilly naval disaster include the flogging of a common seaman earlier in the voyage when he questioned an officer's calculation of position. (He was reportedly a local who likely knew the currents and conditions better.) How likely would it be after such an incident that any common seaman dared again to raise concerns or questions? Flogging has been replaced with more modern penalties in some  organizations for questioning leadership or bearing bad news. Barriers to communication need not be so offensive to cause damage; in many cases they are products simply of misunderstanding. For that reason the Coast Guard, hospitals and other settings where situational awareness is critical have adopted a practice that originated with aviation: the "two challenge rule:" If someone fails to adequately respond to two or more challenges about questionable observations or actions, it should be assumed that situational awareness has been lost and there is a need for remedial action.


Here are some strategies for improving situational awareness:

  • Make sure that all understand its importance, and how it is everyone's responsibility. Develop situational awareness capabilities.
  • As the philosopher and propaganda expert Randal Marlin advised: "The pursuit of truth is like picking raspberries. You miss a lot if you approach it from only one angle." Coast Guard patrols post crew at all quarters necessary for a complete picture of surroundings. If there are discrepancies or disagreements about observations or their interpretation, consultation generally improves decisions. Likewise, situational awareness and resulting action planning shouldn't be only senior leadership's, strategic planners' or marketing's domain.
  •  Pay attention to the quality of communication channels for utilizing observations and information. Make sure there are no barriers, conscious or not, for the free-flow of observations, feedback and "bad news." (Because you think there are none usually isn't sufficient; use "360s" and climate surveys to check it out.)
  • Empower team members to take necessary corrective action when they observe errors or factors critical for success. Jidoka, one of Toyota's core manufacturing principles, includes giving production workers control to stop production lines when problems occur. The outcomes of BP's burning Gulf platform would have likely been much different had that principle been practiced.
  • Monitor stress levels; do a reality checks on workloads, and help prioritize tasks to reduce the fatigue, stress and distractions that negatively impact situational awareness.
  • Take time periodically to "scan the horizon" and pay attention to any potential critical factors - especially when things are going well (encroaching competitors, regulations, shifting tastes or environmental / market conditions, etc.)

In my book "Navigating Integrity . . .." I describe how Authenticity is one of four dimensions required to cultivate engaging, ethical and effective work cultures. We want "real leaders" and "real organizations" that live up to who or what they claim to be. There is another side to being real as an organization or leader, however; that is the capacity to accurately assess and interpret what is really going on - in other words, situational awareness. We would enjoy exploring ways to enhance your leaders' and organization's capacities for situational awareness as a resource for strategic planning, "360" / organization surveys and tailored leadership development.


"Sometimes, leadership differs from non-leadership only in that leadership views the world with a slightly larger lens."

John Carver




Seeing the world through the largest number of lenses makes it unlikely that some new reality will appear without being aware of it at all.

Robert Theobald




Leading Change With Integrity 

Most of you have witnessed (and perhaps been victims of) disappointing or even disastrous organizational change efforts. A 2010 IBM comprehensive global study of organizational change initiatives revealed that 60% of them fail; JCP (the retailer formerly known as J.C. Penney) is the latest high profile example.  Yet we live and work in times when the capacity to lead change effectively has perhaps never been greater. Let me add my perspective to the oceans of advice about leading organizational change.


First, let's consider what the criteria for successful organizational change should be. I  propose that there are three:

  • Effectiveness - changes should accomplish their desired effect.
  • Engagement - changes should build the commitment and loyalty of those we hope will execute desired changes.
  • Ethical - change processes and outcomes should be fair and honorable.
Definitions for "integrity" include "wholeness" and "soundness." Leading change with integrity, then, implies considering the whole; consciously or unconsciously attending to only one of two of the "3 Es" is unsound, just as a one or two-legged stool is unsound. In my book Navigating Integrity - Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best, I outline four factors that leaders and organizations can leverage to craft effective, engaging and ethical cultures; they are the same factors to leverage for leading "integrious" "triple-e" change initiatives:

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Enter the "WHO SAID THIS?" contest on our blog to win a free  autographed copy of  
"In this new book, Al Watts does a masterful job articulating how to live with integrity in your organization, on your team and in your life. A highly practical guide for leveraging the power of integrity."
(Kevin Cashman, Senior Partner Korn Ferrry)


Contact inTEgro to explore how we can be of service for strategic planning, senior team and board development or facilitating critical meetings. Click "Services" on our home page to learn more, including inTEgro's array of professional organization, team and leader surveys.

All the best,

Al Watts
inTEgro, Inc.
ph: (612) 827-2363

Al Watts
inTEgro, Inc