Book Reviews


Deep Change / Discovering the Leader Within                                         

Author               Robert E. Quinn
Publisher         Jossey Bass, 1996
ISBN                  0-7879-0244-6
Reviewer          Basil P. Rouskas
                            CEO, NovAspire, Inc.
Stars                  3 ½

Stars ratings:
1=Don’t bother  
2=Limited value
3=You should read it     
4=You should read it, buy it and revisit it often

What is this book about?

Written by a professor at the Michigan Business School, this book addresses the need for change in ourselves before we can change the world.  Although most of the examples and stories come from the world of business, it is not only for business people. It is for everyone who has pondered the question of how to be a better leader and how to renew to avoid “slow death”.  Quinn defines as “slow death the condition of “keeping our heads down, our mouths shut, and simply taking our paychecks to the bank – a no passion, no risk, no commitment work ethic.”

Who should read it?

This is what the author says: “All of us, at some point in life, get overwhelmed and disconnected and feel that our life lacks meaning.  We realize that we need to do something to alter our present situation but lack the motivation and inspiration to do so.  We also recognize that we want to influence and change the behavior of others.  If you must face up to the need to change and do not quite know how to get through the process, this book is for you.”

If you want to make changes in your life, your work and your organization this book will give you questions to challenge your thoughts and your behaviors.  It will make you face some risks that you have been avoiding.  It will make you reflect on what are the “first things first” in your efforts to change yourself, others and the organization.

At the end of each chapter, there are questions for reflection and for connecting the chapter concepts and your life/work situations.

Why should he/she read it?

Because it is one of the best books, I have read, on connecting the necessity of personal change with the organizational one.  It is also a great resource in explaining in simple terms what are the dynamics of organizational change.  There are volumes of theories about leadership and organizational change: Why it works and why it doesn’t.  This book does it in thirty pages.

What are the main points?

  • We can change the world only if we change ourselves.  Change in the world needs to come after change in attitudes and perspectives of the change agent.
  • There is a difference between incremental and deep change. Deep change requires change in the way we think and behave, incremental does not.
  • Each one of us has the potential to change the world.  But because the price is so high we seldom take the challenge.  But by doing that, we pay the price of slow death, “a meaningless, frustrating experience enmeshed in fear, anger and helplessness”.
  • Strategies for dealing with slow death are: Peace and Pay, Active Exit, and Deep Change.
  • When we feel at the “top of our game” we radiate large amounts of energy. When that energy is directed toward important tasks, good things tend to happen. As we experience success we learn and grow. We gain new perspectives.
  • Hero’s journey is a mythical imagery/symbol positing that to grow we need to leave the world of certainty and travel to strange places where there are lots of risks, and much is at stake, and where there are new problems requiring us to think in radically new ways about our selves.
  • This new way of viewing the world, after the Hero’s journey, causes us to see ourselves differently. To avoid the journey towards slow death, we need to watch carefully that we do not look at new problems with old perspectives.
  • In cases of intense stress and pressure the tendency is for all of us to resort to old paradigms, the familiar and effective we have known.  We become rigid and bring in the logic of task pursuits as opposed to seeking deep change.
  • New perspectives of our lives are always bringing us more energy.  There are always things happening around us that we are not aware of.  Some of the new perspectives could be ways that we link our values to our daily actions. That linkage alone makes the day more energy producing and more meaningful.
  • Ultimately deep change, whether at a personal or organizational level, is a spiritual process.  Loss of alignment happens when we are pursuing the wrong end.
  • Organizational and personal growths seldom follow a linear plan. All organizations are coalitional. The dominant coalitions in an organization is seldom interested in making a deep change.
  • The real problem, as to why change initiatives do not work, can be found in the most unexpected places: Inside ourselves.
  • Culture change starts with personal change.  We become change agents by first altering our maps.
  • Ultimately the process returns us to the power of one and the requirement of aligning and empowering oneself before successfully changing the organization.
  • Deep change is what happens when we all make the transition from individual contributor to manager and executive. This transition to the executive level is a classical example as to how the maps we use need to change if we are to have a deep change.