3 Tips to Renovate Your... Organization or Life?

A Story in Progress

A few years ago, I was standing at the top of two ladders taped together (with duct tape, of course). The ladders wobble precariously in the wind as I remove an existing 90-year-old wooden gable vent that had rotted out a bit. Not bad for longevity, and I hope to be in half the condition of the wood at that age. (Hint: taping two ladders together to gain height is NOT a good safety moment).

At the bottom of the ladder, my 4-year-old daughter, Andrea, pirouettes in the grass as she performs at the Opera de Yard. Several pigeons perch on the roof, looking on with great interest, if not approval. Also at the bottom of the ladder, lying in the grass, is a thin metal gable vent to replace the old, heavy, wood vent. I glance down to ensure my daughter is doing okay, and my heart pounds as I see she is now dancing on top of the new thin metal replacement vent.

"NOOOOO! GET - OFF - THAT!" I bellow as I nearly slide down the two ladders taped together.

In shock, she glances up at me, then takes off running into the house. I am hot on her heels, but she still beats me to her room and shuts the door.


Renovation Basics

Home renovation is a great analogy when we talk about life, business, team, or organizational renovation. We may have an old, stale, broken home that needs an entire renovation. Or, perhaps it is only a room or two. Here are some tips that can help us map out a plan for a successful journey.

Are you and your organization as successful in life as you would like it to be? If your answer is YES, are there any areas liable for improvement? If you realize the opportunity for some renovation in the house, please read on for three tips for greater success.

In any renovation, most of us realize the necessity of excellent project management skills, including detailed requirements, careful planning, and accurate cost estimation and accounting. In project management, the four critical concerns are scope, cost, schedule, and quality, all of which should be included as part of our planning. Let's check in with John Mismanege as he talks to a local contractor about his kitchen renovation.

Kitchen Analogy

Joe C "I-Can-Do-IT" Contractor: "Okay, so ya want your kitchen redone. I can do it for ya."

John M: "Great. I'm swamped and don't have much time to talk about it. How much do you think this will cost?"

Joe C: "Dunno, have to see as we go along."

John M: Wow, this could cost me out the wazoo! But, as I said, I'm really underwater with everything right now. Why don't you go ahead and get started."

Joe C: "Great, I'll get the hammer and crowbar and tear it up."

John M: "Oh, by the way, any idea how long it will take?"

Joe C: "Nope, it could be a week, month... maybe longer. I've got five other jobs going and just have to pop in and out."

John M: "Maybe we should talk further..." [starts to protest, but Joe has already started and punched a hole in a nearby wall].

This is a dramatization; hopefully, no one would allow a contractor to start putting holes in a wall without planning, cost estimates, or an idea of a schedule. Yet, when our life, business, or organization has a critical need for restoration or renovation, isn't this what can happen?

Any change requires us to assess where we are and a plan to get to where we want to be.


TIP 1 - Make it Count

Where am I and/or the organization going? The organization can be business, social, or family-related. In the "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership," John Maxwell advises us about the Law of the Lid, which states:

"An organization will never grow beyond the capacity of its leader's ability to lead and grow."

For example, if the leader has a leadership ability of 3, the organization will never grow beyond that. If the leader increases their leadership ability to a 6, the organization has space to grow from a 2 to a 5. Hint: That may be why some leaders are replaced when the organization stagnates.

This takeaway is that we can't just look at an organization and think about change; the leadership has to change first.

  1. Evaluate where we are and where we want to be. This requires an open mind. Does our target objective match up with our purpose? At this point, we may want to look at requirements, not solutions.

  2. Seek wise counsel, outside ideas to our own, and communicate with others. This requires humility.

  3. Consider a plan to get from where we are to where we want to be. This requires effort and cost. What is the plan, how long will it take, who needs to be involved, what is the cost, what are our risks, how do we ensure accountability, and what is our possibility of success?

  4. Determine how to break out of confining cultural habits and behavior.

TIP 2 - Accountability

Accountability is critical to change. The transformation will always require more effort than expected, more cost than calculated, changes in our thinking and beliefs, and the end result will be better than we planned.

  1. What is our end goal? The end goal may not be what we think it is, and we want ongoing renovation and change to stay market-relevant, not just a single time-based change.

  2. Do we have an understanding of our purpose? Do objectives lead to our purpose with underlying goals and milestones? What are our KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)?

  3. Who believes in our vision yet can challenge us and ask difficult questions? Who are the people who can provide accountability to help achieve success?

TIP 3 - AGILEness

We will undoubtedly run into problems and changes along the way. We may do our best to plan our trip yet run into things outside our control, like highway construction, detours, and closed roads. The risk evaluation process can help us identify and mitigate some of these plus determine our schedule and possible costs.

  1. Understand risk planning and plan for (and communicate) risk.

  2. People, things, and situations change. How do we ensure appropriate mitigation for these changes and adjust? Have a plan to address change.

  3. Good leadership, communication, and flexibility are essential.

TIP 4 (free) - RISK

Risk is our over-arching consideration in all things. How does it apply to the plan? Then, how do we apply it throughout the plan? Then how do we continue to use it as we go along?

There are a lot of examples and details if you search on how to do Risk Planning. This is just one reference:


  1. Identify and document as many risks as possible, even if it seems outlandish.

  2. Analyze the likelihood of each risk and record it.

  3. Manage your risk. After assigning likelihood and priority, create plans to help minimize the impact of the risk should it occur.


That day I saw my daughter dance on my new gable vent was a wake-up call for me about what is important in life. By the time I got down the ladder, ran through the basement, and up the stairs, I could hear her in her room crying. I stopped outside the closed door to her bedroom, took a breath, and paused before rushing in to reprimand her. What was I so angry about in the first place? Was the gable vent really the most important thing in the story of her life that I was creating?

This epiphany caused me to stop, consider, and adjust how I thought about life and people. How was my behavior affecting others around me? What outcome did I want with my daughter in the end of it all when she emerged from her cocoon as a woman into a strange new world? This would take a change in me, and it might as well start right now.

Instead of barging into her space, as usual, I knocked on the door. "Can I come in? I asked.

After her timid, "yeeess," I opened the door into a new day, took her in my arms, and apologized for frightening her. We had a conversation about the vent and why she shouldn't dance on it. But I was genuinely sorry to turn the wonderful experience of her pirouettes in the sunny grass into storm clouds of fear.

As with any change, it wasn't a miracle transformation; it took intentional planning, daily effort, accountability, and ongoing adjustments. Ultimately, I learned something important about the need for ongoing evaluation and agile change as a foundation for transformation. At the same time, I never forgot a little girl dancing in the sun without a care in the world. It's something we can all learn from; the freedom to be free.

© copyright 2022 H Mark Taylor

Transformation is a Dirty Business (wix.com picture)

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