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Parachuting cats into Borneo : and other lessons from the change café
Klimek A., Atkisson A., Chelsea Green Publishing, Junction, VT, 2016. 176 pp. Type: Book (978-1-603586-81-8)
Date Reviewed: Jun 23 2017

This book is an instruction manual. It describes effective strategies for changing the world. It consists of 16 short, easy-to-read chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 get the reader off to a good start. Chapter 1, “Thinking About the Way We Think About Change,” hints at the premise of the book--changing people and systems is hard, and requires systems thinking and tools to align action [1].

Chapter 2, “How to Use This Book,” introduces the book’s refreshing approach. Imagine that you are at a cafe, a “change cafe,” with the coauthors, engaged in a conversation about systemic change. Your dialog will likely cover:

  • Basic beliefs about the process of changing systems;
  • Methods for supporting a system to move from state A to state B;
  • The relationship of the change agent with the system; and
  • How to increase the capacity of the system not just to change, but to improve performance.

In fact, this is what the book does.

Chapter 8 describes the authors’ methodology for systemic change. The methodology consists of a framing or organizing method called VISIS--vision, indicators, systems, innovation, and strategy--combined with an accelerator toolkit. This toolkit is part of a professional services offering by the Center for Sustainability Transformation, co-led by the authors [2]. While the methodology outlined is focused on sustainability, it is broadly applicable to organizational and social change.

Between these two chapters on the instructions and the methodology is a conversation about the authors’ philosophy and major tools. Chapter 3 explores current beliefs about change, comparing and contrasting the “repair mode” approach to change with appreciative inquiry. The latest thinking on change can be found in the “Routledge Studies in Organizational Change & Development” series [3]. Chapters 4 through 7 each describe one of the four tools: preparation, change processes, social environment mapping, and stakeholder dialogue management.

The remainder of the book provides more sage advice and tools, especially chapter 15. It provides a fresh perspective on what the authors call “the new leadership for change.” Change leaders interested in a more traditional A-to-B-type guidebook should read [4].

Parachuting cats into Borneo: and other lessons from the change café is for change agents interested in changing people and systems, and systems thinkers interested in changing the way organizations change. Be careful reading it. Doing so will show you that it is possible, and motivate you to do so.

Footnote 1: The title of this book refers to a fable about an unsystemic effort to eradicate malaria [5].

Footnote 2: Dog lovers will appreciate the book as well.

More reviews about this item: Amazon

Reviewer:  Ernest Hughes Review #: CR145370 (1709-0599)
1) Systems thinking definitions. Waters Foundation, (05/12/2017).
2) Center for Sustainability Transformation, (05/12/2017).
3) Routledge Studies in Organizational Change and Development series, (05/30/2017).
4) Judge, W., Jr. Focusing on organizational change. Flat World Knowledge, Washington, DC, 2012.
5) Operation Cat Drop: history or hoax? The Sieve, (05/12/2017).
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