Parachuting Cats Into Borneo: And Other Lessons from the Change Café
A toolkit of proven strategies and practices for building capacity and creating transformation
Recent years have seen a proliferation of information on how to make change--in business, in social and environmental movements, and on a more personal scale. But, even with all this attention, two out of three change efforts fail to achieve their desired result. How can you make your own effort buck this trend?
In Parachuting Cats into Borneo, change-management experts Axel Klimek and Alan AtKisson offer crisp, concise, and targeted advice for success. They expose the most significant impediments--helping readers recognize their habitual patterns of thinking and perceiving a situation, critique their own beliefs regarding change, and then move beyond these unhelpful patterns using improved systems thinking.
Named after a classic tale of unintended consequences, Parachuting Cats into Borneo delivers tools that help leaders and others keep their change initiatives on track. The advice imparted will help you move away from agonizing over immediate problems toward stoking action, identifying collaborators, focusing at the right level for your cause, and aiding others in pursuing their change.
Klimek and AtKisson draw from their decades of helping corporations, networks, governments, and NGOs reach their change goals to demonstrate how to use system-based change tools to their maximum advantage.
A closing section is devoted to change making in the realm of sustainability, where complexity abounds but the right tools, used well, can help us tackle some of the most significant challenges of our time.
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About the Author
Alan AtKisson, CEO of AtKisson Group and cofounder of the Center for Sustainability Transformation, was inducted into the International Sustainability Hall of Fame in 2013. He has advised governments, cities, and organizations around the world, including Nike, Levi Strauss, Toyota, WWF, and the United Nations Secretariat. His six previous books include the Amazon bestseller Believing Cassandra. He is a dual citizen of the USA and Sweden, and lives in Stockholm.
Axel Klimek is the cofounder and managing director of the Center for Sustainability Transformation. He has worked in more than twenty-five countries on four continents, and within a wide spectrum of contexts--helping leaders, organizations, and developmental programs manage complex change processes and improve their performance. His clients have included the African Union Commission, Canon Europe, EY, PWC, Allianz, GIZ, Lufthansa, Unilever, and T-Systems. He lives in Germany.
"Change is difficult, and usually takes time, but this book gave me hope that change will happen, whatever time it takes, and guided me through the appropriate sequence of steps I should take to achieve my mission--slowly but steadily. The book presents a combination of concern, determination, and faith: concern about people and nature, the determination to continue the path, and the faith that what we are doing is right. I received this book on June 11 and started reading it the morning of June 12. I powered off my mobile, and I went on reading 'til the afternoon of June 13. At that time I discovered that it was my birthday; I think that this book was the best birthday present I had this year!"--Boshra Salem, director, Office of International Relations, Alexandria University; member, Women in Science Hall of Fame
"I've been waiting for this book, from these gentlemen, for years. Decades of distilled experience, insight, wisdom, guidance, and delight about engaging the most challenging parts of change--people and groups of people. (Technological innovation is simple by comparison.) Only one in three change initiatives succeed, the authors tell us. This little book, and the thoughtful systems and tools it offers, might just help you boost your odds."--Gil Friend, chairman and CEO, Natural Logic, Inc.
"We live in times of continuous accelerating change--as I have personally experienced--and yet we have difficulty adapting to it. That's human nature: We like the comfort of stability and predictability. Here Klimek and AtKisson draw a short and very easy-to-read roadmap for implementing sustainable change. A great effort and recommended reading."--Nani Falco Beccalli, former President and CEO, GE Europe
"Parachuting Cats into Borneo is a great guidebook for leaders and individuals who want to create transformational changes in any society, community, organization, workspace, or family they are a part of. The authors have done a great job illuminating not only the most up-to-date 'skills and knowledge' on change processes, such as a system approach and coaching, but also 'attitude and being, ' or how leaders can develop themselves and cultivate organizational cultures. I have been using these approaches in Japan and elsewhere in the world, and they have proven to be effective in work for many clients across sectors."--Riichiro Oda, president and CEO, Change Agent, Inc.
"The one thing we all have more and more of is CHANGE, and we all need to become more skillful in navigating through it. Klimek and AtKisson are great companions to have with you on your change journey, providing guidance, great stories, and good company."--Peter Hawkins, Professor of Leadership, Henley Business School; chairman, Renewal Associates
"This book is a must for anyone who is involved in change processes toward a more equitable, humane, and environmentally friendly world. It is not the usual 'how to do and get what you want' instruction book. No recipes, no safe or proven success guidelines, no software program for making changes happen! It is a book about personal and group empowerment. It orients readers to become agents of change based on their own resources and their own creative ideas. And all this for a common purpose: to reach a more sustainable future for all."--Ortwin Renn, scientific director, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies
"Parachuting Cats is a small book with a really big bag of tools for the change agent's toolkit--describing how, when, and where each can best be used. Some are tools for personal change that make one a more effective change agent; others are tools for helping organizations and communities create lasting change. Highly recommend for all sustainability professionals or anyone working to make the world a better place. I could and will reread this book at least ten times and get more out of it each time."--Maureen Hart, executive director, International Society of Sustainability Professionals
"Spanning change management, leadership, strategy, and spirituality, Klimek and AtKisson's volume is an indispensable guide for current and would-be sustainability leaders."--Michael Kobori, vice president of sustainability, Levi Strauss & Co.
"Parachuting Cats offers a deep dive into what it takes for our economies and our families to flourish within Earth's finite limits. For all the attention paid to technologies, policies, leadership, and 'corporate social responsibility, ' creating the change we want to see in the world means understanding how societies and institutions transform. In the end, it's the system, stupid, that needs transforming. Klimek and AtKisson tell us how to do that. This is a vital read for our turbulent times."--Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor, GreenBiz Group; coauthor of The New Grand Strategy
"Many of us need to change ourselves or to bring about change through our work but always get stuck in a rut because we need confirmation to do the right thing. This book helps us enter into conversations to see within and around us and to make that so-needed transformation."--Bience Gawanas, former commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union
"A fascinating account of the cultural, psychological, and institutional barriers that prevent more change programs from succeeding - and how to overcome them."--Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever
"As a funder, I was drawn to organizations that had both a clear vision for the future and an approach to the inevitable difficulties of change. If this valuable toolkit had been around, I would have sent a copy with every grant check."--David Grant, former president and CEO, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; author of The Social Profit Handbook
"AtKisson (Believing Cassandra) and Klimek, cofounders of the Center for Sustainability Transformation, offer a shrewd and discerning look at systemic change within organizations and the many obstacles to such change. The coauthors do not claim to have a one-size-fits-all solution, rather telling the reader that the 'answers are already there within yourself' or close at hand, among your colleagues. However, they do urge readers to shift the odds in their favor by building on existing knowledge, seeking out new viewpoints, becoming more mindful of ingrained habits, and focusing on their strengths and resources. Klimek and AtKisson offer up 'four big questions: ' 'What basic beliefs do we have?'; 'What method do we have for supporting a system to move from state A to state B?'; 'What is our relationship to the system?'; and 'How can we increase the capacity of the system not just to change but to improve performance?' Elsewhere, they identify seven different ways of approaching change, including 'following a plan, ' 'negotiating an outcome, ' and 'enforcing the future.' They close with insightful chapters on supporting others, coaching, and leadership that will be particularly valuable when initiating change but should be equally beneficial to daily work life."
"This short paperback's title belies its importance as a serious commentary on the importance of creating and implementing an organizational culture embracing transformational change. Under the backdrop of an informal café meeting, the authors (cofounders of the Center for Sustainability Transformation) provide a unique perspective and a thought-provoking exploration into the dynamics of change in organizational leadership and the traditional psychological, cultural, and institutional barriers of the existing organizational ethos. Based on their professional experiences, the 16 well-written and readable chapters illustrate a framework and methodology that embrace the need for change and the engagement of all stakeholders in successful programs of organizational transformation. Klimek and Atkisson suggest not just a do-it-yourself checklist or one size fits all solution, but a schematic for creating an atmosphere encouraging an internal dialogue that will empower all participants to accept long-term change as an intrinsic part of organizational success, so that the schematic becomes the catalyst of a positive, systematic, and strategic environment regarding change and its impact on organizational sustainability. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty."
"Parachuting Cats into Borneo takes change management off the white board and places it into your own hands--inviting you into a café conversation with the authors, who put together a thoughtful collection of practical tools that I found valuable even after 25 years in the sustainability and social change field. Grab a pen and some paper (and a coffee!). This book will take you on a thought journey, best when you have a change process and goal in mind. And who doesn't?"--Gillian Martin Mehers, managing director, Bright Green Learning; coauthor of The Climate Change Playbook
"Welcome to the world café--where it's raining, well, cats. Axel Klimek and Alan AtKisson are hosting. Slow down, relax, and prepare to change the way you think about change."--John Elkington, co-founder, Environmental Data Services (ENDS), SustainAbility, and Volans; coauthor of The Breakthrough Challenge
"An apparently endless stream of conferences and workshops is applauding the big transformation toward sustainable development. And is tiring. Real action is not following suit. I see a growing disconnect between advocacy and personal behavior (and the behavior of advocates' home institutions). Yet never before has humankind been in a better position to successfully end hunger and poverty within the limits of ecological boundaries. Never before have there been so many experts and campaigners dedicated to making this planet a better place. But, strangely enough, all this does not yet deliver. Action is often halted. Advanced thinking is often restricted to special interest groups. Experts are arguing within the boundaries of their own unconnected communities. That is why this book is timely. The authors bridge change attitudes on the personal level and the structural level. They help us understand (and change) the patterns of our very habitudes--and, fortunately, they never forget the importance of changing vested interests and political structures in a democratic society. Absorbing Klimek and AtKisson's recommendations has added value to both my thinking and acting."--Günther Bachmann, secretary general, German Council for Sustainable Development; advisor to the Global Network of National Councils for Sustainable Development