The View From a Diminishing Window

Suppose you learned you were developing Alzheimer’s disease. What would you do? Would you take a long-delayed vacation? Spend your time hoping for a cure?

What Mitch Evich did was start a blog.

The Diminishing Window is Evich’s place to explore the meaning of life. Since August 2015, he has written on a variety of topics, from whether green tea and red wine can help your memory to how he feels, and should feel, knowing he has a disease for which there is no cure.

Evich has a distinctive outlook. You could tell it was him and not me, for instance, writing about the raw emotional power of opera, the beauty of cemeteries, and the ways that Ivan Ilych and Gregor Samsa both comment on illness and the attitudes of the well toward the sick.

It’s not the choice of topics that moves me but his voice. He writes like a man who’s savoring things on his tongue, whether they’re bitter or sweet. He’s knowledgeable about history and literature, and yet he’s always personal. A blog entry that starts with novelist Richard Ford and goes on to echo Elisabeth Kubler-Ross arrives at last at this reflection:

My dad died in 2004, when I was forty-two, and I pretty much took it for granted that, barring some terrible accident, I too would live into old age. But it is always foolish to assume that one is exempt from bad luck.

I learned about Evich’s blog because he is a neighbor here in Somerville, Massachusetts. Through the magic of the internet, spanning space and time, I introduce you to him where you live.

By Dennis Fishman – Dennis is a Cause and Effective Associate who helps not for profits win loyal friends through their communications.

Now NFP’s Have Three Options: Merge, Perish or …… Network

For movement to occur every cog needs to play its part

For movement to occur every cog needs to play   its part


If we are to listen to some high profile NFP players lately, small to medium cause-based organisations have two options : merge or perish!

All pretty depressing stuff if your organisation is now on this new endangered species list. Even worse if you, a family member or community is reliant on one of these supposedly doomed  organisations.

Maybe it’s just me but have you noticed that these merge or perish apologists tend to be leaders of very large charities or senior bureaucrats. Also they fail to acknowledge there may be other options.

One such alternative which is beginning to show that NFPs can not only survive but thrive is through networking.

Hold the phone, I can hear you saying:

“I am networking all the time – in this group, on that committee, am active on LinkedIn. I am networked out!” 

Yep, more and more good collaboration is happening from this networking – we’re sharing facilities, resources, ideas … whatever. But is all this networking achieving real transformational change in our society? Is it going to help organisations survive in the long term? I, for one, have my doubts.

So why isn’t all of this effort generating more dramatic social change? According to Jane Wei-Skillern, David Ehrichlman, and David Sawyer in the Stanford Social Innovation Review it is about how we network. More specifically, they argue that the sector urgently needs to develop network entrepreneurs – a new breed of leaders whose approach ….

“…expands far beyond the boundaries of their own organisation, supporting peers and partners across sectors to solve the problem. Not surprisingly, the potential of impact increases exponentially when leaders leverage resources of all types – leadership, money, talent – across organisations and sectors toward a common goal.”

These new leaders leave their egos, and those of their organisation, at the door, and set out each day to marshal the necessary resources to deliver true social change. They understand that this is beyond the reach of any one organisation alone and recognise that they and their organisation are but cogs in a much wider mechanism driving social change.

Coming to terms with the fact that one is not the centre of the universe may be difficult for some people and their organisations, but lets not diminish the critical role played by “cogs”. Each needs to be sound and fully functional to allow the entire machine to work. And it is this critical importance to the performance of the whole system that will ensure their continued existence.

As Nell Edington in an excellent post puts it …..

“The network approach involves having the confidence to think there is potentially a larger solution and that you might be part of it”

A further critical trait of network entrepreneurs identified in the SSIR is a genuine desire to achieve maximum impact rather than to promote themselves or their organisations.

They often put the interests of their peers ahead of their own, as “supporting all boats to rise” actually serves the mission best. Network entrepreneurs, for example, often refer potential donors to peers that can better deliver a program or service; they don’t simply seek to maximize their own organization’s budget. When all network participants adhere to this principle, it becomes self-reinforcing; it greases the wheels of current collaborations and opens the doors to future partnerships”.

Of course this type of “servant” or “humble” leadership isn’t new, with philosopher Lao Tzu in the 6th century BC being quoted as saying:

“When the best leader work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”

And finally, if you are having a “pigs might fly” moment after reading this spend five minutes following some of the links in Nell’s post.  Clearly remarkable social change can be achieved, it all depends on how we choose to lead.  

By Chris Gandy – Founder and a Director of Cause & Effective


Imagine your work time is like a credit card

     Imagine your work time is like a credit card


You probably have a couple of credit cards. You guard your password or pin number diligently. Only you may spend money on your credit card.

Imagine your work time is like a credit card. Lots of people ask you for your time for meetings, catch-ups over coffee, interruptions…these folk are spending your time. You have given them your pin and your password and they spend your time freely.

Meanwhile you have stuff to do too – you have to interrupt others, you spend time getting done whatever you have to get done in order to be productive.

There may be too few controls over your time credit card. Unlike a money card if you overspend you do not go into debt. What happens is that your list of things to get done – your “to do” list is far longer than your list of accomplishments – your “I’ve done this” list. You have given away your password.

You may be happy about this. Or you may be thinking that you really have a distraction credit card and not a time credit card. It’s as though there is a universe of possible distractions out there and we, and others, spend freely on them at the cost of getting done what is essential to get done.

A useful start to spending your time – like your money – more carefully is to decide what is essential. Am I spending my time on what matters? Are others spending your time on what matters to you?

By Joe Moore. Joe is the founder and principal of Kimber Moore Associates. He and his team are highly skilled in helping leaders and staff deal with uncertainty, change, complexity and conflicts. You can contact Joe here

Lead By Sharing Others Ideas

You don't have to paint the picture yourself

You don’t have to paint the picture yourself


As a leader in your company and in your field, please share your own experiences. It’s a good thing to do! Your stories–and the lessons you’ve learned–will be valuable to your colleagues when they face similar challenges.

You can share your stories and lessons in person, or on social media, or in a blog like this one. But it’s important to remember: not all the content you share has to be your own.

Curating content means finding the most valuable information that other people have produced, adding value to it with your own comments, and sharing it with your audience.

Like a curator in a museum, when you curate online, you don’t paint the pictures. You choose what to display and what to say about each piece.

Check out my guest post on Tripp Braden’s Developing Serving Leaders blog, How You Can Lead by Sharing Others’ Ideas. You will discover:

  • Four Reasons to Share Curated Content
  • How to Find Good Content to Share
  • Plus a bonus:
    Expert Tips for Content Curators

– See more at: How You Can Lead by Sharing Others’ Ideas.

By Dennis Fischman : Dennis is a Cause & Effective Associate who helps not for profits and small business discover better ways to communicate and, in the process, win friends and get the support they need. He is also the author of The No-Nonsense Nonprofit Guide to Social Media

Put It In Writing….


How many times have you heard “we can’t do anything about it until you put it in writing?”

For whatever reason the person making the statement has – it’s rarely a helpful statement to make. You say “write” and I hear “dismissed”. Especially in response to a conversation about other’s poor behaviour.

Yet the experience of many employees who may want to talk through behaviour problems with their manager or the HR department is to met with.

At work the statement “I can’t do anything unless you put it in writing” puts the responsibility on people to pursue behavioural issues usually through an individual grievance – a process which largely dissatisfies those who use it.

Formal grievance procedures ought to be the last step taken – after all informal avenues are exhausted – in addressing problem poor conduct.

With sound leadership about resolving behaviour problems informally managers may start action without waiting for something in writing. The first step would be to ask around and get some perspectives of the conduct being talked about. Your findings will often be ambiguous – rarely do people make bad decisions and behave poorly to all colleagues all the time. The different perspectives will help decide the range of management actions – the informal attempts to resolve what is happening.

You do not need a written grievance to hear the concerns, to be alive to the impact and the concern of staff members about the behaviour of another.

With safeguards against raising false concerns in bad faith or for personal gain the initiative is worth considering in all workplaces struggling with significant under-reporting of poor behaviour and a poor record of resolving behaviour concerns.

Does your approach to dealing with reports of unreasonable behaviour resolve concerns or create them?

By Joe Moore. Joe is the founder and principal of Kimber Moore Associates. He and his team are highly skilled in helping leaders and staff deal with uncertainty, change, complexity and conflicts. You can contact Joe here

Being a Board Chair Can Be Difficult


How often have you heard a Board Chair announce to a meeting something like:  “Mary has decided to leave the Board, who do you know who can replace her”?

Unfortunately, the “who do you know” recruitment process, which still seems to be alive and well in the not for profit sector, is hardly the recipe for a high performing, energetic, forward-looking Board.

The primary reason for this is that the people you know are most likely people, well,  just like ….  YOU!  So the “Who you know” method will most probably replicate the same set of views you already have around the table.

Sure, as a Chair you have to make sure your mission is still relevant. Yes, you must ensure that your fellow board members, especially new ones, understand their responsibilities clearly. And, at a basic level you need to have a quorum to run meetings and make decisions. But, the most critical element for a successful Board is diversity.

Having sufficient people on the bus is important. Having the right people on the bus is paramount. But having people of different generations, life experiences, genders, professional training, and ethnicities around a table who are committed to bring their unique perspectives to bear on very complex and important issues, is surely the ultimate goal for every Board Chair.

Not an easy task, but as I have said, being a Chair of a not for profit Board can be difficult.

By Chris Gandy – Chris is the Founder and Principal of Cause & Effective. We specialise in assisting cause-based organisations to maximise the opportunities that arise during leadership transitions.




Don’t Touch the Bananas


I learned a lot of my meagre organisational design and development skills through the mentorship of a great friend, Tim Dalmau.

Tim has taught many of the world’s great company leaders about how cultures really work. He teaches that cultures lie deep within all organisations. They are immensely hard to alter. This is because altering them involves trying to meddle with their identities: who they are, what their meaning in life is and so on.

From this perspective “Culture Change” and “Business Transformation” programs can be seen for what they really are: attempts to change practices but which won’t alter the underlying culture in any enduring way.

Just how hard it is to “change” cultures can be seen from the famous Apes In The Cage experiment, reported widely some years ago.

The research involved putting a monkey in a cage with a bunch of bananas. The monkey grabbed bananas and ate them, until the bunch was electrified. The monkey of course recoiled, tried again, got a shock and eventually sat in the corner. Another monkey was added. The first one tried to stop the second one from doing what monkeys do: eat the bananas. Eventually the second one touched the bananas and of course got a shock. It retreated too.

Then a third monkey was added and the first two succeeded in preventing the third from touching the bananas at all.

A fourth was added. The first three also stopped the fourth. (Just to recap: we now have two monkeys that have had direct experience of the shock and one that hasn’t but joins in transmitting the knowledge of the first two to the fourth monkey.)

Then they take the first out and add a fifth. Same story: don’t touch the bananas.

Then they take out the remaining monkeys one by one, adding in new monkeys, in the meantime having turned off the shock. No new monkeys touch the bananas, even though every instinct tells them to!

The experiment shows how culture is created, how it survives and how pervasive it is. It doesn’t intuitively matter that the research was later found not to be real, because we can all relate to experiences from real life in organisations that back up the “research.”

Tim also teaches that for every complex problem there is usually a simple solution…and it is usually wrong! It would be tempting to think that the Volkswagen debacle can be explained in simple terms. However, I can’t help but think that underneath all the duplicity, lying, fear, cover-ups, insincere apologies and the like there lies a cultural basis for what happened. Somewhere in the early history of that great company, someone in leadership experienced a lack of integrity in his dealings with others. That so called leader “taught” others that it was OK not to be true to one’s word, presumably if it served the company’s financial goals. And so the culture of “espoused integrity” but “no-integrity-in-action” has continued to the present day.

Regular posters to blogs lament these kinds of cultures and practices in modern workplaces. Organisational leaders who want to tap wisdom need organisational design and development advice that goes to the deep roots of how organisations really run.

The Leadership Foundation is Brisbane-based and runs events where leaders explore the implications of these great kinds of issues for their own leadership. In a safe environment, leaders develop their understanding of how leadership actually works and how to navigate potentially explosive situations like the Volkswagen case, before they happen. You are most welcome to join us.

By Ian Sampson : Ian is a Cause & Effective Associate. If you are facing obstacles as an executive, CEO or Director contact Ian for a no-obligation exploratory chat about how coaching can offer new ways forward.

When The Dog Dies


Bob and Alison have been friends of ours for years. Recently Bob decided to retire and they put on a BBQ to mark the event. While Bob tended the steak in his inimitable fashion, I asked Alison about their plans for the next chapter in their lives. Without hesitation she reeled off a list of trips, lengthy visits with extended family members and maybe a house swap with people they know in Canada. But then she put this caveat on these wonderful adventures:

“Of course that’s WTDD”

“What’s WTDD?”, I asked.

Sheepishly Alison glanced at Max their Cattle Dog, who was sitting by the BBQ willing Bob to drop a sausage, and whispered …

“When the dog dies”.

As an animal owner I understood exactly what she meant. While certainly not wishing anything untoward to happen to a beloved pet, their exit from the scene can often be regarded as a pivotal point in the history of our lives.  Upsetting, yes, but when we no longer have the responsibility of a four-legged friend a vista of opportunities can open up.

Later I got to thinking that the exit of a CEO from a Not For Profit is, in a sense, a WTDD moment. Hold the outrage and stay with me,  I am not comparing CEOs to animals! But both events can be pivotal moments in time.

Using Alison’s example, she was implying that when Max goes, after probably shedding buckets of tears, one of the first things she and Bob will do is sit down and explore their options – maybe they will checkout some latest travel deals, talk to family friends to see what they are up to, see how their Canadian friends are placed and make plans accordingly. What they wont do is hot foot it to the nearest animal shelter and get another dog!

When a CEO announces their intention to leave, Board’s need to adopt the same approach. While the occasion is potentially upsetting and disruptive, a Board needs to take a breath and examine the unique opportunities for renewal and fresh thinking that arise at this time. They don’t need to urgently dust off the CEOs PD, cobble together an advertisement and wrangle a replacement ASAP. This knee-jerk reaction can often snuff out these great opportunities and do little to better position the organisation for the challenges ahead.

To help  at this critical time, we have developed our Janus Leadership Transition Program which has been specifically designed to help NFP Boards recognise that new leadership also provides a pivotal chance for change and growth. If your NFP, or one you know, is going through a leadership transition lets talk about the options available to better place your organisation for the future – they go well beyond placing an advertisement on a Job Board.

By the way, looking at Max run around their pool, Bob and Alison will have plenty of time to save for their trips!

By Chris Gandy – Chris is the Founder and Principal of Cause & Effective. We specialise in assisting cause-based organisations to maximise the opportunities that arise during leadership transitions.

Adeptly Tackling Wicked Problems


Uncertainty around complexity is more manageable when you think differently about the problems and the people involved and you have a proven process to follow.

To us different thinking means that we need to be ADEPT :

Appreciative that people, at their best, bring experience, knowledge and wisdom to decision-making.

Accepting that Diverse perspectives, knowledge and values are needed for effective collaboration, including those from people with ‘lived experience’ of the problem.

Aware of the Emergent principle that we can’t plan our moves too far in advance and expect things to go as predicted because messiness, unpredictability and uncertainty are necessary precursors of positive change.

Participatory in our approach as shared decision-making, shared solution ownership and accountable implementation are all essential parts of the complex problem-solving process.

And Thoughtful that people need time for conversation, to listen, learn and digest new information, to test new ideas and form solutions that stick.

By John Dengate – John is a Director at Twyfords. He and his team can coach you to have a different experience that forever changes the way you think about how to tackle complex issues.




Organisations go to a great deal of trouble to attract the most suitable people. It makes sense then to follow up the investment in new recruits by taking care to retain employees.

There is no shortage of information about retention strategies – Google scholar lists 16000 articles for 2015 alone.
Strategies to retain employees include encouraging humour, family support, career opportunities, good managers, and development opportunities. No shortage of advice.

Here is a way to reveal what your retention strategies really include. Take the group of your longest-serving employees and ask yourself.

“Do these employees best demonstrate our organisation purpose, values, and the behaviours we most value?”
“Are our longest-serving employees our “best”. Are they our A Team?”

If your answers to the questions are “Yes”, congratulations!
If your answer is “No”, you have a retention strategy which is successful in retaining mediocrity. You may want to do something about that.

By Joe Moore. Joe is the founder and principal of Kimber Moore Associates. He and his team are highly skilled in helping leaders and staff deal with uncertainty, change, complexity and conflicts. You can contact Joe here