Thursday, January 07, 2010

Massive Change through Micro-movements

Over the past 6 months, I've been working on mastering pullups. Specifically - Kipping Pullups. To give you an idea of what I am talking about - Again Faster has some great instructional videos.
Part 1 - The Kipping Pullup
Part 2 - The Kipping Pullup

Six months ago - I couldn't do ANYTHING resembling a pullup. So I've been practicing.

- Bought a pullup bar and put it in a door in a high traffic area. When I pass the bar, I do a pullup (or, in the early stages, TRY to do a pullup).

- Practically every time I was at the gym, I would make some effort during warmups to do a pullup, even if it wasn't on the official warm up schedule or in the workout.

After about 3 months of practically daily activity - I managed to get my first non-assisted, dead-hang pullup.


Broke the next stage down into new micromovements.

- At the pullup bar - I worked on getting more than 1 pullup, full chin over bar.

- Practically every time at the gym - I also worked on stringing together 2 pullups.

After a month, I got 2 dead hang pullups in a row. One more month, 3 dead hang pullups.


Some of the PCF coaches (Aaron, Brian, Curtis and Jon) noticed I was quietly in my little corner of the bars working on pullups. One day - Curtis gave me an exercise.

- At the pullup bar at home - do as many pullups as possible without stopping when I pass the bar.

- Every time I was at the gym, I did Curtis' exercise.

One week later, I talked to Brian who gave me 2 more exercises.

- At the pullup bar at home - do as many pullups as possible without stopping. I'm up to 10 jumping pullups and about 4 dead-hang.

- Every time I am at the gym, I work on Brian's exercises - as well as make an attempt to string it all together.

I'm now up to 5 really ugly kipping pullups. No support bands, no jumping.

I still have work to do - but I am much closer to the goal than I was 6 months ago.

How didn't I learn how to do a pullup? By just watching the 2 videos.

The real education came through the daily practice and modification of that practice as needed to work towards the goal.

Any time I've seen big change happen is through tiny, daily micro-movements performed by individuals. I'm seeing it right now as the organization lurches from a culture of "Telephone" towards more direct communication between people and levels.

1)An individual decides to go talk directly to another individual rather than talking to his boss who will then talk to the other person's boss about an issue.

2)The individual and his or her contact are NOT PUNISHED for the activity by their respective bosses.

3)The individuals try talking to each other directly again and see whether #2 happens again.

4)Both individuals are STILL NOT PUNISHED for the activity.

The decision of the boss to not punish the person for talking to someone directly is a small, daily decision. The repetition of the behavior from the boss is what helps make the change stick with the individuals.

Another pair of individuals try the same activity. If all goes well - with the same results.

One individual attempts to talk directly to a mucky muck outside of a formal "Talk to the Mucky Muck" session. If all goes well - with the same results.

Eventually, you have culture change as more individuals talk directly with each other and get things done without punishment.

The grand announcement that "We are going to be a flatter organization!!!" is not driving the actual change. A "training event" is not driving the change. A collection of online tutorials on communication is not driving the change. Even the "Talk to the Mucky Muck" session will have little impact on the change.

Small, tentative, individual actions practiced on a regular basis will drive the change.


Dave Ferguson said...

This strikes me as an excellent insight, in that after you read it, you think, "Well, yes, that's right."

I'm dubious about efforts to change corporate culture, doubly so for large efforts, triply so for top-down large efforts (the Make It So syndrome).

What can temper that is authenticity, percolating through ever level of the organization. That often calls for more patience and consistency than many structures encourage, but once the momentum builds, it continues.

Lee Hardin said...

Being a military man, I literally stopped dead while looking at your blog when I saw the word "pull-up". Being in the Army, we don't normally practice pull-ups. Instead, we are more focused on push-ups because that is what we are tested on. Marines orient there workouts towards the pull up because of their physical fitness tests, but not so much push-ups. With that being said, it is quite funny seeing an army soldier get into a pull-up competition with a typical marine, because they truly lacked the form or drive to ever pull-ups before. (and the same goes for marines in a push-up competition).

Sure, most military guys and girls are phsyically active before ever joining the military, so yes: they have done pull-ups or push-ups before they ever swore in. But I was exactly like you in the fact that I have seen videos of pull-ups. I know what they look like, and I have seen proper form through demonstrations. Yet, I never really tried to do what I have seen in those demonstrations, nor did i take any small steps to improve. I more so just jumped on the bar and struggled my way to the top with brute-ugly strength. It was extremely painful.

But you made a great anology with how you improved your pull-up technique with a very simplified "crawl, walk, run" technique that the military itself is quite fond of. Besides having that initial desire (which is most needed in the first place), you placed that bar in that high traffic area just like I did when i was first starting out. This matches perfectly to the corporate world where I am an intern at a major electronics corporation doing much Instructional technology work. The company is going through a massive change with training, including adopting a new brand new LMS. Two years ago, this company only made 3 elearning modules in an ENTIRE year, because training was not as valued during the economic recess. Now, our quota with a staff less than 10, is to make 75 modules to meet the needs of many departments and clients. The employees must take these types of training or their bosses will hear about it. Many of the older employees have rarely ever touched a mouse let alone completed a module, so our company is taking measures to accomodate these drastic changes, one small step at a time. Very impressive article!