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8 Target | Winter 2013
Want to Achieve Breakthrough Results? Re-think!
Peter Sheahan Explains
Tectonic Shifts, the Power of
Intangibles and Getting to
the Other Side of Complexity
Sheahan said that when McDonald’s
introduced salads on its menu, sales
jumped. Salads didn’t account for high-
er sales, however; customers may have
been attracted by them, but they stuck
to the basics like burgers and fries.
Making changes may create interest,
with sometimes unexpected results.
Execute Your Way to Leading Edge
Leadership support for breakthrough
change is needed.
“We can’t just think our way to the
leading edge. We need to execute our
way there,” Sheahan said. There is
no change until you change behavior.
For leaders seeking greater impact
toward organizational goals, Sheah-
an reported research about what
CEO strategies help to transform
companies into remarkable perform-
ers. Although many executives look
toward structural changes in their
organization, it is leadership behav-
ior that has the greatest impact.
“What we do teaches others how
to behave,” he said.
Your attachment to yesterday’s
roles and tools may be holding back
your organization from achieving its
potential. Has your company missed
critical opportunities that could have
netted the introduction of ground-
breaking products or services, vault-
ing the company to potential market
leadership for the next several years?
“You can limit yourself by defining
yourself in terms of traditional roles and
activities,” Sheahan said. “A strength,
taken to its extreme, is a weakness.”
Get to Other Side of Complexity
Want to create greater acceptance and
By Lea Tonkin
Just about the time you’re start-
ing to feel better — not comfort-
able or relaxed — about your
lean progress, someone like Peter
Sheahan comes along. He’s here to
challenge and question you. He’ll en-
sure that you’ll never rest easy along
your lean journey just in case you had
any ideas of that sort. As a matter of
fact, he’s concerned that your lean
success may be your biggest chal-
lenge. In his keynote address to par -
ticipants during the recent AME an-
nual conference in Toronto, Sheahan
questioned traditional notions about
leadership, change and success.
Sheahan is the CEO of ChangeLabs,
a global consulting firm that designs
and executes large-scale behavioral
change projects, with clients ranging
from Apple to Google, IBM to Harley-Da-
vidson. Known for teaching businesses
to find opportunities, Sheahan is the
author of the bestsellers Generation Y:
Thriving and Surviving with Generation Y
at Work and Flip: How to Turn Every-
thing You Know on its Head – and Suc-
ceed Beyond Your Wildest Imaginings.
“What is the quality of assumptions
that market leaders are making about
what business they are really in?”
Sheahan said. “It doesn’t matter how
well you’re solving the wrong problem.”
Counterintuitive strategies will be
needed for breaking through to our
leading edge. Think about tectonic
shifts in business models, not simply
“Assumptions precede adaptability.
... Don’t be constricted by existing es-
tablished models, practices and tools,”
Sheahan said. “The elegance of science
is its artful application to reality.”
Without a scientific approach,
leaders and managers can otherwise
polish the wrong opportunity.
“Not everything is iterative,” he
said. Many processes start with some
level of breakthrough change.
If you’re seeking dramatic discoveries
and progress rather than incremental
change, consider new ways to advance.
Sheahan estimated that 25 percent of
Procter & Gamble’s R&D is generated
through online networks, for example.
Don’t underestimate the power of in-
tangibles, such as stories, in spark-
“Intangibles matter a lot. ... It’s the
‘soft stuff’ that sometimes makes the
biggest difference,” Sheahan said.
People seek symbols and narratives in
addition to evidence as they sift through
possibilities for action and change. You
need to communicate in a way that
creates interest and awareness, and
then nudge others to buy your ideas for
change. Do they understand what you
are trying to sell and why it should make
a difference to them?
Perceptions can lead people to
unexpected behaviors. For example,
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