Keep Calm and Carry On

Oct 16, 2010 2 Comments by

Click the picture to buy this book from the Publisher's website...

You may be familiar with an interesting little red book of quotes put out by Andrews McMeel Publishing a couple years ago called “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  The book’s familiar design and title are drawn from a poster that was created by the British Ministry of Information for British soldiers before World War II.

This simple book of quotes is organized into broad topics.  It’s a good quick read and I recommend it. (OBTW: I have no arrangement with the publisher – my wife gave me the book as a gift…)

Fave Five: For today’s post, I pulled a few of my favorite quotes from the book and discussed how I think they may apply to people & teams involved in change:

1. Wise men don’t need advice; fools won’t take it. -Ben Franklin

As a team and as an individual – avoid being too proud to gather feedback and apply it to improve your future work.  Most change project teams can benefit from periodic “Lessons Learned” activities – but only if they apply the results and actually make improvements based on things discovered during the process!

2. Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something. -Thomas A. Edison

It’s great to have rules and Lord knows there are plenty of policies and regulations that need to be followed in business life.  But there are times when a team involved in making change happen would be better served by asking “why” than by simply complying. I once facilitated a 2-week process improvement exercise where a team used the classic “5 Why’s” process to boldly embrace new levels of rule-breaking.  (To learn more about Five Why’s click here to see an explanation from the folks at

3. It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. -Mark Twain

Be careful not to let assumptions about your stakeholders sink your change project. Take advantage of the special knowledge they can offer. (Of course it may take a little bit of work to ask them…)  I like to help clients establish a network of “Champions” throughout the community of people who will be impacted by a given change.  We then leverage the unique experiences of these folks to get an early and on-going idea of how difficult the change will be for them.  We usually get some very frank feedback during this process & almost always it keeps us from making some tragic mistake!

4. There is no education like adversity. -Benjamin Disraeli

There will be bad days during your project.  Get ready for it. Expect it. Someone will cut your funding or pull your best people.  You may find resistance in an unexpected form or corner of the organization. (…like maybe those lovely people who tell you to your face that they are behind the change 100% only to turn on your team later during the adoption process…?) You will almost certainly run into schedule and scope pressure at some point.  It’s not a matter of if the team will face adversity – but when.  It’s  vitally important that you have the grit to get back up when your team gets knocked down.

…and finally…

5. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit.  No point in being a damn fool about it.  -W.C. Fields

Okay, so this one is probably intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but honestly, you may actually arrive at the day when your change initiative is determined to be irrelevant or overcome by events.  Example: there was a last VHS video roll-out and a last silent film.  I once managed a multi-million dollar software application development project that was mothballed as soon as merger talks began.

Things change.  Even change changes.  It might be a good idea to avoid staking your entire career or your sense of personal worth on the success of a given change project.

It’s only work. My father once said: “Don’t take yourself too seriously.  You’re not as bad as some people say but you’re not as good either”.  Thanks Dad, way to keep a kid humble.


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Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Team Dynamics

About the author

I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!

2 Responses to “Keep Calm and Carry On”

  1. Steve says:

    Pat, Seems like that’s the case for every project at some point, eh? :o) -Steve

  2. pat yankowich says:

    keep calm & carry on…some good stuff for our current project!

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