Small Change: how to work, lead or follow in the 21st Century

small changes

I am writing a book. I will be publishing sections as blogs as I write it. I would be grateful for comments, questions and feedback as I proceed.  Below is a draft introduction.

Draft Introduction

Everything in the world of work seems to be changing; yet sometimes it feels like nothing at all has changed.

Career decisions are not getting any easier; securing work experience is challenging, and job finding is still a lottery. Investment in personal training and development remains patchy; bullying is still rife and is often institutional. The concepts of human capital assets and resources are still at the heart of organisational theory even though most people don’t believe they apply to them.

For business leaders, contextual stresses have worsened: their first hundred days in a new role, starting a new business, delivering rapid growth, managing complex change or restructure, being bought out, redundancy and finding non-executive directorships – are all fraught with risk.

Nevertheless, the opportunities to have fulfilling and rewarding careers have never been better. Social changes, economic development and, latterly, social media have made this possible. Everyone can now, in theory, be what they can or, with apologies to Maslow, should be.

So why isn’t it all much easier than it was? My belief is that that organisational practice and theory have failed to keep pace with reality. Many schools, universities, and organisations still cleave to behaviour and methods that are outdated.

This failure is understandable. The pace of change in the last twenty-five years or so has been unprecedented. It didn’t come with instructions. In fact, the temptation to revert to old comfortable ways in the face of complexity has, for some, been irresistible.

Writers and commentators are wrestling with these issues in books, blogs and podcasts.  I want to add this book as my contribution to the debate and to share my experiences of working with scores of leaders and organisations over many years. I have also developed a model based on these case studies.

The title of the book is Small change: how to work, lead or follow in the 21st. Century. My core message is that changing just ten actions out of every hundred is only 10% change. That’s small change.

But because we are unique individuals – literally 1/7 billion regarding our uniqueness on the planet – these small changes can have a unique and much bigger impact on ourselves and on those around us than we imagine.

People at work are unique career businesses. Organisations are joint ventures of these for brief periods. This book is about the interdependence between individual purpose and organisational purpose and how small changes in behaviour supports it.

Chapter 1 sets out how the world of work has changed and how you and organisations might best respond to these changes. For example, I propose that CEOs take on the role of human resource directors who in turn should become Chiefs of Staff. I also set out a model for ensuring that personal and organisational purposes remain healthily interdependent.

Chapter 2 is about the seven things everyone should know about business and sometimes don’t; Chapter 3 is about turning the job finding process from a lottery to a certainty, one way or another.  Chapter 4 is about your First 100 Days in a new leadership role and how to follow a leader and manage upwards. Chapter 5 is about how best, as a leader, to manage relationships across and down. Chapter 6 is about managing your Last 100 Days to ensure a good exit. Chapter 7 is about life after work and addresses what I call The 7 Deadly Sins of Nascent NEDS – i.e. non-executive directors. There are Appendices including one on the special role, purpose and difficulties facing General Counsel.

I hope that leaders, followers and commentators find Small Change useful.

Ciaran Fenton

August 2016


Want to talk leadership? Contact me through my LinkedIn profile or call me on +44 (0) 207 754 0335


For CEOs /CFOs and Legal Leadership…

#LegalWithTheBusiness – A One Day 50/50 Workshop for GCs and “The Business”…

For aspiring Non-Executive Directors

The 7 Deadly Sins of Nascent NEDs – A One Day Workshop at the IOD, London

4 thoughts on “Small Change: how to work, lead or follow in the 21st Century

  1. Ciaran, it seems to me that your chapter 7 is a bit limited if you are focusing solely on NED positions. I am sure that is not your intention. I have a good mate who loves, as the Irish would say, following stepping out of the 8 to 8, ‘watching the fillums’ and is becoming quite a critic and another mate who wants to try his hand at all the stuff he always wanted to be – such as driving a bus and becoming a yoga teacher. Isn’t the focus about life after following your instincts and using all your hidden skills and dreams shuttered away and letting them out. Lifting the lid on your aspirations….I think one of the challenges we face when we think it is time to step out (or someone else rings the bell) is the stereotype of becoming a NED – when in practice it’s fecking difficult to find what you really want. Perhaps you should entitle chapter 7, ‘In the Pursuit of Iconoclasm’ and that’s a highway to exploration…

    Stay well Nick 44 7710 568803

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Hi Ciaran,

    I think the ideas for each of the chapters in the book sound very interesting. Of particular interest to me would be Chapter 3. Speaking as a BAME woman, I wonder whether the advice here will be generic to all or whether there will be suggestions that may help minority groups improve their chances of attaining positions they seek.

    Look forward to reading more about the book and your blogs.

    Best wishes


    • Hi Unnanti,

      Thank you for taking time to comment.

      Regarding your particular interest, the advice in my book will be generic but I will also address how people can manage their uniqueness.

      You are not just “speaking as a BAME woman”. You are speaking as a unique person – one out of seven billion. Another person on the planet may share your name but no one shares your unique life history. Nor do they share your unique potential. My book is about how you can become, not just what you can become, but also what you should become, because of your uniqueness.

      So yes, my book will contain “suggestions that may help minority groups improve their chances of attaining positions they seek” not only because of the difficulties they share in doing so but also because of the challenge that all of us face in acknowledging our unique power, whether BAME or not.

      Does this make sense?

      Best wishes


      • Hi Ciaran,

        Thank you for your reply. It does make sense. I wish you well with your book.

        Best wishes


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