What are your 100 precincts?

Have you figured out the ten teams that matter?  I asked naively during a meeting earlier this week.  If the looks on the faces opposite to me were any indication, the answer was no.   My meeting comrades had been charged with a change management effort at their company.    They had lengthy color-coded spreadsheets.  Action plans and timelines.  They hoped to train everyone.  Win hearts and minds.  And accrue victory one step at a time…..  

As I listened a map from election night kept creeping into my mind.  Maybe you’ve seen it? It’s from Cuyahoga County, Ohio.  Prior to November 6, 2012 I had never heard of Cuyahoga County.   On election night this visual seemed to be everywhere.

Why?   Rich Exner’s Cleveland.com piece, “Cuyahoga County precinct map shows areas where Obama beat Romney unanimously,”  said it all.  “If you remove Cuyahoga County, Romney would have won Ohio and its other 87 counties by >129K votes.  With this single county Obama won the state by >236K votes.”

cuyahoga-precincts-2012.jpg

Can one county make such a difference?   I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there is more complexity to it.  But, Obama won at least 75 percent of the vote in nearly half of the precincts countywide (489 of 1,063).   In 9 precincts he won an unprecedented 100% of the vote.

All this week I’ve been intrigued by this staggering result and the process used to achieve it.   Obama didn’t run around the country trying to sway every county.  Thanks to the efforts of a geek squad that numbered over 100, Obama did focus in an informed data-driven way on a 100 or so that mattered.  Super analytical. Targeted.  Focused.

In your transition can you name the 100 steps that matter?  I can’t.   Will it be the next phone call?   The informational interview that I just scheduled?

Here is how it shakes out for me.  I have two buckets of time: time that I can invest in transition activities and all the other time.   Focus for me is eliminating non critical activities in the non transition bucket.  Any extra time I find can be reallocated to my transition work.   Make sense?

I heard a funny reference to focus in a video clip of Debra Spar, president of Barnard College who recently kicked off Harvard Business School‘s celebration of 50 years of women in the MBA program.  In the clip she addresses the notion of expectations on American women by alluding to magazine covers that boast headlines like, “Do it yourself Halloween Costumes,” or “Magic Holiday Cupcakes.”  Each activity requires broad material acquisition, glue guns and lengthy process steps.  She notes, “this is what is expected of the average American mom. This isn’t just the crazy people.”  (Keynote Address Celebration of 50 Years of Women in the MBA Program, at approx. 34 minutes into the piece.)

Yes, our notion of expectations is unhinged.   What then happens to the downstream effect on focus?

I’m very drawn to Obama’s focus approach.   Slate’s Sasha Issenberg called Obama’s geek squad and the resulting intelligent campaigning it drove, “A Vast Left-Wing Competency.”  I’d love such a moniker to follow women’s transition.

I shared with my new change management friends that at my former company our change management activities used a beach head strategy.  My words, nothing technical.   We simply established beach heads in the early days of our change management program.  We’d go out and find some groups who were willing to experiment with us.   Work like crazy to get them successful and then use these successes as examples to win over the nay-sayers and the nincompoops.

My new friends were intrigued by our beachy theme and the prospect of some early wins for their project.  But they’d already bought the cupcake ingredients and the glue gun.   Too late to correct?   Maybe not.  How about you?

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