Changing Personal Micro-Strategies

Do you know anyone who always seems to struggle with the world and everything it throws at them? Do you hear them frequently say something like “it’s always going wrong for me”? Do you feel that people sometimes over-react when you say the simplest of passing comment? We all know people like that, sometimes very well. We may even recognize this happening in ourselves, and wish that we could make a change.

The problem we are experiencing is unproductive personal micro-strategies, and that is why this piece is about Changing Personal Micro-Strategies

What is a Personal Micro-strategy?
In business we all know that a strategy is a recipe which produces a particular result for a given set of ingredients, by following a specified process. We have a Corporate Strategy, a Business Strategy, an IT Strategy and probably an Operational Strategy. These are all Strategies which allow the business to plan to achieve a particular goal or set of goals or objectives.

A Strategy is the direction and scope of an organization over the long-term which achieves advantage for the organization through its configuration of resources to meet the needs of markets and to fulfill stakeholder expectations

A Personal Micro-strategy is therefore a recipe which produces a particular result for an individual in a particular set of circumstances.

Advantages of a Personal Micro-strategy?
Does a Personal Micro-strategy always achieve advantages for the individual? Is it fixed or can it be changed? Consider a child who learns at an early age that they can get the attention they want from their parents if they cry. Crying gives them an advantage when they want attention, so it becomes their micro-strategy. Need attention, apply strategy, achieve desired result. The more often this strategy is applied and works, the more it is flagged as a successful micro-strategy.

Perhaps later when they learn social interaction at school, they find that crying does not necessarily work as well in competition with many others. Children are resourceful and usually very flexible, and so may adopt a newer strategy, for example telling tales. Need attention, apply strategy and tell tales on someone, achieve desired result. If unsuccessful, try something different.

Depending on the personal circumstances of the individual, this can result in many Personal Micro-Strategies, which can be used interchangeably, or a few deeply engrained ones which are always used for almost any occasion.

Who has Personal Micro-strategies?
Everyone has personal micro-strategies, and use them every day to deal with the apparently random sequence of events to which we are constantly exposed.

We all probably know someone who is always gossiping around the office, telling everyone who will listen secrets and detail of other people’s lives. The chances are that they have a deeply entrenched personal micro-strategy, which they picked up before the age of seven, possibly through imitation of peers or roll models. For the short term it gets them the attention they are seeking, but does it serve them in the long term? Or does it work to the detriment of the business of their employer, and ultimately pose a risk to their job?

Workplace bullies often have a similar problematic micro-strategy, which covers up their own feelings of insecurity and vulnerability by responding with angry outbursts when challenged, or storming out on difficult discussions, or picking on weaker individuals as a way of fitting in with the crowd. While the behavior may confer a short term benefit, it presents longer term challenges to forming relationships, long term employment and ultimately happiness. It also cost the business in lost productivity, absence through sickness and litigation.

A Personal Micro-strategy is the sequence an individual adopts in the short term which achieves perceived advantages in response to internal or external events, needs and circumstances.

What is an Unproductive Personal Micro-strategy?
An unproductive personal micro-strategy is a recipe which achieves a short term benefit, if it achieves anything, but returns unprofitable longer term results. This could be poor health, lost of employment, injury or even death. At best it is a recipe for long term unhappiness and poor performance, and at worst it is a recipe for disaster.

Consider the person who has an angry reaction when an unthinking driver in another vehicle cuts them up on the freeway. The immediate response to a perceived invasion of personal space is anger, as they learned in school. However, they are unable to intimidate the other driver by shouting and cursing, so that is replaced by flashing headlights and sounding the horn, and possibly by impolite hand signals. What happens if the other driver also has an unproductive personal micro-strategy and reacts negatively to the situation? This micro-strategy likely has little short term benefit, but may ultimately result in a road rage incident, or an accident which could end in death for someone.

So is there anything we can do to change our own unproductive personal micro-strategies and help others deal with theirs?

How To Change Personal Micro-Strategies
If we consider a personal micro-strategy to be a recipe which produces a particular result for a given set of ingredients and a specified process, then by changing any of the ingredients, or the process, or both we will produce different results.

How do we change the ingredients of the events or circumstances which triggered the micro-strategy? We can not prevent the other vehicle from pulling in front of us without signalling the maneuver. No but we can change our interpretation of the event! Human beings are meaning making machines, and we give meanings to anything and everything, even if it actually has none. Perhaps we could affix a different meaning to the event and interpret it as a reminder to watch out better for potential actions of other road users.

Alternatively, how about changing the process so that instead of reacting to an ignorant action by another we smile and thank them, or acknowledge their imperceptible thanks with “you’re welcome!”.

What else can we do?
As personal micro-strategies are learned, the good news is that they can be unlearned and replaced by more productive micro-strategies.

For example with the help of a personal coach or hypnotherapist it is possible to change the reaction to a given event. Perhaps replacing anger with laughter the next time someone slights us, or replacing feelings of insecurity and vulnerability with more positive emotions would prevent the unproductive personal micro-strategy from triggering. Either way it opens up new opportunities and new possibilities for performance and success.

Remember, a business coach can help with business strategies and goal setting, while a personal coach can help us with unproductive personal micro-strategies. If we find that our own unproductive personal micro-strategies are getting in the way of our businesses, it might be that we need help from both.

This article explores some simple ways of Changing Personal Micro-Strategies. If you want to find out more you why not click on the link below, fill in your details and get in touch.

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Every Morning in Africa, a Gazelle Wakes

Remember the old joke about the two explorers on the plain in Africa when they hear the roar of a nearby lion. One explorer quickly starts putting on running shoes, to the amazement of the other. “You must be crazy if you think you can outrun a Lion” says the second explorer. “I don’t need to outrun the lion” responds the first explorer “I just have to run faster than you!”

There is an ancient African proverb. Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle, when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

Sometimes when we are faced with change, often perceived as danger threatening, there is a temptation to pull tighter round the metaphorical camp fire circle and wait to see what will happen. This is where comfort and familiarity can be found, and it is easy to associate with other people in the same mindset. There is a facile belief that Lions would not venture into such a safe place.

However if we are in business, this is exactly the wrong thing to do. The initiative rests with with the first one with their running shoes on. When circumstances change in business, when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

Have A Positive Attitude To Change And Innovation

“Change is inevitable. Change is constant.” Benjamin Disraeli

How people respond to change affects their personal performance and the results they achieve. Similarly the way that organizations respond to change is a mark of their performance and success, and is often reflected in their bottom line.

When we resist change, we knowingly or unknowingly behave in ways that attempt to keep things as they are, and so put ourselves out of alignment with our environment. This is often either an unconscious desire to remain safe and secure, or a conscious desire to avoid the unknown. Either way the result is discomfort and tension. If our attitudes and actions are not aligned with the new direction then we are out of flow and less productive.

This phenomenon applies equally to organizations as to individuals; it is just that the dynamic is sometimes different. An organization may have plenty of people who are innovative and respond positively to change, but if the senior management is fearful and change resistant then the organization can suffer. Conversely, if the leadership is flexible and positive about change and innovation, but this is not effectively communicated to the organization, then resistance may manifest as unrest and unproductive behavior, or even open rebellion.

Regardless of the nature of the challenge, the way we respond to change affects our performance and the ultimate result. It is much easier to cope with change if we have a positive attitude to changes in general. This should reflect in the language we use both to ourselves, as self talk, and when talking to others, singly or in groups.

This doesn’t mean that we always have to agree with the circumstances or the details of the change, but we can still adapt to it in a constructive manner. The mark of an entrepreneur is the way that they respond to change and the innovation they bring to challenges. For this discussion innovation is defined broadly as bringing any new, problem solving idea into use. Having a positive orientation towards change involves:

  • knowing what we can and cannot control in a given situation
  • recognizing that disruptions are a natural response to change
  • being innovative and creative while looking for the opportunities that change creates
  • recognizing that there are a number of right ways to do things
  • utilizing all our personal resources and strengths to actively do the best we can

Taking these attitudes on board as individuals and organizations can improve performance and outcomes. If we respond positively to change we can grow as individuals. Organizations that respond positively to change and innovation from whatever source will also flourish and grow.

To put the earlier quote from Benjamin Disraeli into context here, it might be better to say that change is inevitable and constant, but growth is optional.

Install a Positive Attitude to Change and Innovation today and see how performance and results grow.

Corporate Change Management

Did you know that two out of three change management projects fail for one reason or another? All too often, major organization redesigns create little, if any, value, yet the cost of change is high. The ability to change is a key differentiator in today’s fiercely competitive global economy. Yet studies consistently show that two out of three major change efforts fail.

Programs to improve corporate organizational performance have become increasingly common. Yet they are notoriously difficult to carry out. Success depends on persuading hundreds or thousands of groups and individuals to change the way they work, a transformation people will accept only if they can be persuaded to think differently about their jobs. In effect, CEOs must alter the mind-sets of their employees, which is no easy task.

Successful change projects usually have some common themes running through them, and the project implementation team have likely been good at the following:

  • identifying the right business issues,
  • pinpointing the right underlying obstacles,
  • adopting the right design characteristics,
  • implementing change the right way.

In the 1998 paper by Jeff Dooley entitled A Whole-Person/Systemic Approach to Organization Change Management, the application of Aikido principles in workplace training was recognized as beneficial. This provides a potentially powerful new form of organizational learning. He points out that there are four organizational layers of this model of nested core competencies, which are listed here, from the outside in:

  1. Structural organizational and work craftsmanship
  2. Group process and teamwork management tools and practices
  3. Leadership through skillful speaking and listening
  4. Leadership through Inner Mastery

It is common for change management processes to deal with and address the first two layers of this model, as they will likely have a structure decided before they start. In a corporate merger, for example the new CEO will probably have identified a central management structure, with two or more divisions, as the vision of a unified corporation. Most change mentors would advocate use of documented processes, lean management techniques, and that the best management tools and practices should be enshrined in the change methodology. Some enlightened project managers might even recognize the importance of leadership in successfully negotiating the many change management hurdles, and include a slide on Leadership in the presentation to the board.

However few would be so bold as to advocate Leadership through Inner Mastery and encouraging effective action through mindfulness and managed temperament. This smacks of mysticism, mumbo-jumbo and is out there with burning insence and Jedi mind power. Unfortunately this limiting decision to ignore something because it is internal and therefore intangible is a fundamental mistake, and could eventually lead to the failure of a change management project.

All meaningful change takes place in the mind of the people involved, and indeed in the unconscious mind of every individual, rather than on a white board or in a process manual. You can have the best, most detailed process charts, but they are meaningless if people just go on doing what they have always done before. To change the behavior or a department or organization it is essential to change the beliefs of the groups and individuals in order to change the way they work.

While Inner Mastery is a key leadership skill, it is not practiced extensively, or even overtly acknowledged. Yet leadership manifested through Inner Mastery could be the key to a change program’s success, or the limiting factor. All responsibility for the success or failure of a change program is internal, and within the control of a project manager if she accepts the responsibility.

In their 2003 article The Psychology of Change Management, Colin Price and Emily Lawson suggest that four basic conditions have to be met before employees will change their behavior

  • A compelling story – they must see the point of the change and agree with it, at least enough to give it a try
  • Role modeling: They must see colleagues they admire modeling the desired behaviors.
  • Reinforcement systems: Surrounding structures, systems, processes and incentive must be in tune with the new behavior.
  • The skills required for change: They need to have the skills to do what is required of them

If these basic conditions are met through a truly effective communication strategy, and the leadership genuinely embrace the core competencies, then the change program is likely to succeed. Put the right systems and tools in place, publish the processes and project plans, and remember – all meaningful change takes place in the unconscious mind.


  1. A Whole-Person/Systemic Approach to Organization Change Management By Jeff Dooley
  2. The Psychology of Change Management, Colin Price and Emily Lawson
  3. Mindfulness in Wikipedia