While the state of this planet and its inhabitants are improving in many key areas (e.g., poverty, life expectancy, child mortality, living in conflict zones), the Biden Administration is also inheriting existentially explosive trends in other areas. Adverse climate change impacts, global pandemic recovery, racial injustice, social disunity and polarization, extreme economic and power inequality, to name a few of the big ones.
Even in the face of such disasters, breakthroughs are possible for the thriving of the planet and people. Our 40 years of working with leaders in governments worldwide demonstrate eight critical areas of transformation that will be essential for the Biden Administration to focus on. These areas include important questions that we can ask to focus attention where it needs to be for President Biden’s new Cabinet to succeed.
The Biden Administration has not specifically asked us for these questions, but we assume its genuine curiosity and openness.
Up-Level Effectiveness with a Breakthrough Mindset
Mindset is causative. As we assume, value and believe, so we see, act, and relate. Mindset is the most upstream lever the cabinet has to up-level its effectiveness and a great place to start these questions.
- How will you reliably orient to breakthrough rather than incrementalism?
- How will you consistently take up the challenge of busting through barriers to see possibility where logjams have historically prevailed?
- What will you put in place to jointly tackle limitations and weaknesses without blame or judgment?
- Which key strategic breakthroughs will you focus on that are keystone in nature, unlocking benefits in multiple related areas?
Though scarcity thinking is dominant, how will you consistently assume abundance to free the emergence of next-order solutions?
Develop Great Agility with a Learning and Course-Correction Process
Sixty to seventy percent of transformational efforts fail to sustainably deliver on stated objectives. The omission of human dynamics, culture and relationships into the transformational plan from the outset, as an integral component, is the biggest reason for such failure. The cabinet must develop great agility in acting on indicators whose significance is opaque unless they are attuned to such interior dimensions.
- How will you govern with inter-dependent attention to both internal (human dynamics, culture) and external factors?
- How will you create a learning-oriented cabinet so you can course-correct with increasing awareness and skill?
- How will you navigate wake-up calls that threaten your worldviews, your comfort zones, your vested interests?
- In what ways are you prepared to proactively feel the grief you must bear for all citizens when faced with transformational choices that require the death of old ways of being, operating and relating?
Master the Science of the Transformational Process
Transformational change as an artful science is built on a handful of fundamental principles, the ignorance of which has doomed many well-intended efforts. While administrations naturally focus on what to change, how to change significantly lags in attention and expertise. Following existing methods tend to yield insufficient, incremental results.
- How will you embed Conscious Change Leadership as a strategic discipline to guide your government’s evolutionary agenda?
- What will it take for you to value the process of how to transform widely and thoroughly in all departments of government?
- How will you consider impacts at each scale of reality as you design and implement programs and policies, from individuals to relationships to families/teams, organizations/societies and countries/planet?
- How will you keep an eye, first and foremost, on what’s good, life-affirming and sustainable for the highest scale you can while attending to all the systems nested within that scale?
- What will you do to ensure your various policy, legislative and presidential orders are aligned and integrated into a coherent strategy?
- How will plans, resources, pace, and communications be optimized to reduce wasteful overlap and conflict and take advantage of piggy-back or leverage opportunities across departments and initiatives?
Overview of the 10 Key Strategies for Transformational Change
Be a Model to Others by “Walking your Talk”
Transformation is sustainably successful when it’s understood as an inside-out process. This cabinet’s success will depend on the degree to which it walks its talk through Self-Mastery and Modeling. President Biden needs to understand that beyond having technically competent members, his Cabinet is performing on one of the most visible stages on earth. A heartfelt devotion to a breakthrough journey must shine through all actions and decisions.
- How will you dedicate yourself to transform your own self-limiting patterns and operate from your most conscious self?
- What support will you use to ensure you are taking a perspective on your perspective and master yourself in real-time?
- How will you stay centered, spacious and grounded amidst the stress and challenge of this daunting endeavor you have declared?
- What structure or system will you put in place to ensure you are surfacing and testing your assumptions?
- How will you consistently model – in behavior and tone – more aspects of the future you must lead in creating?
How will you become more authentic, vulnerable, connected and open, and less defended, needing to be right and isolated?
Demonstrate Greater Discernment, Perspective Taking and Seeking
Next-order solutions emerge when the net of new perspectives is cast wide and when the ability is strong to sort signals from noise among the perspectives. Amidst the confusion of so many possibilities that superficially appear viable, this cabinet must learn to deeply discern which options cut through the chaos.
- In the exercise of power, how will you listen to a rich diversity of voices and synthesize them into a coherence that transcends the mainstream for wiser, more nuanced and efficient solutions?
- What will you put in place to ensure you are continually asking yourselves how you might be wrong and what you might be missing or not seeing?
- When and how will you assess the potential impact of proposed actions to anticipate unintended consequences and “blowback”?
- What approaches will you follow to include intuition and inspiration as innovation and creativity tools in solving the complex strategic challenges we face?
Create Relevant and Meaningful Communications and Engagement
The effort required by citizens to voluntarily buy into difficult change is impossible unless they deeply understand the relevance and meaning of the policy or law to their own lives.
- How will you clearly communicate to engage, educate, and change citizens’ behavior towards a thriving future when many are mistrustful, jaded and polarized?
- How might you reach out to under-represented constituencies and stakeholder groups to engage them in shaping their futures in ways they trust?
What will be your approach to communicating early in proposed significant change so that you harness people’s engaged passion rather than use communications merely to “sell and tell” to disenfranchised communities and, after the fact, expect their compliance?
Set up a Parallel Governance Structure for Transforming Departments and Agencies
If the government is to have a meaningful role in guiding us to a thriving future, it needs to transform itself; to change the way it does business. However, institutions are famously resistive to change – immune, even. One key way to ensure change succeeds is to set up a parallel governance structure for the change effort. It should have direct access to cabinet-level sponsors, connected to operations but distinct from it. Within this parallel structure, a few other principles must be skillfully deployed.
- How will you overtly state your decision-making process and style in advance of high-impact choices you must make?
- How will you select the most appropriate people to staff key roles in the change structure and get them functionally trained in their roles?
- How will you work towards high participation and high shared commitment from communities and stakeholders when it matters most?
Build Trust and Collaboration Across Boundaries
The reason for so much silo mentality and turf wars is that it offers a sense of control. Once we reach out beyond our sandbox into others’, we risk losing some of it. But the upside is unlocking the power of creative collaboration and trust to understand bigger pictures, connect more dots, and generate transformational possibilities and hope.
- How will you work together in cabinet to co-creatively avoid being “in over your heads” with the vast complexity of topics you must wrestle with, whose dynamics are often volatile, inter-dependent, ambiguous and emergent?
- What will you do to genuinely dialogue with friends and foes to make the most informed and far-seeing decisions?
- How will you work effectively across national, state, regional and organizational boundaries to ensure wide and just "thriveability" for this and future generations?
When your term is over, what will your legacy be in such times that demand breakthrough thinking and execution?
In many cases, the United States government is still the global leader (certainly in the West) in setting direction and tone of action (or non-action) on these topics. While politics has been described as the art of the possible, there is too much at stake for planetary survival to merely tinker with what is readily possible. Much more clarity and boldness are required. Seeing beyond conventional approaches is necessary to deploy extraordinary transformational strategies that navigate breakdowns into breakthroughs.
Are You a Transformational Leader?
At Being First, HOW to answer these questions and lead transformation is our Mission, passion, and expertise for over 40 years. If you’d like to learn the HOW of leading transformation, consider enrolling in our upcoming online course: Leading Transformational Change: 10 Strategies for Breakthrough Results.