Meeting the future will soon make what was done yesterday seem like ancient history. ⏤ Marilyn Jacobson
This quote from Turning the Pyramid Upside Down by author Marilyn Jacobson, struck me as prophetic when I reread it for the first time in many years. The words seemed to capture today’s new reality in a way that hit home for me in a world now turned upside down.
What called me back to the author’s book now was, unfortunately, her recent death. Soon I would discover even more powerful insights and wisdom that I had forgotten.
Several weeks ago, I stopped sending out my new weekly newsletter. It had unfailingly been sent out for the past 17 weeks in a row. I looked forward to writing it, and it was attracting many new subscribers along with lots of positive feedback.
Then suddenly ⏤ and seemingly overnight ⏤ everything changed. Even though the themes and topics I was writing about were about forward thinking in the face of so much change and disruption, I needed and wanted time to process what was happening. I knew my readers were likely feeling the same.
It was during this time that Cutter approached me about writing an article for the Advisor. I immediately said yes even though I wasn’t sure what I would write. I took some to reflect on what I wanted to say.
Unfortunately, inspiration arrived unexpectedly. I heard the news about Marilyn Jacobson’s death on March 28, 2020. I knew Marilyn to be a courageous and bold transformational leader that I met through my interview series 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success. She was someone I had personally met, and I greatly respected and admired who she was and what she had accomplished.
Marilyn Jacobson and I first met in 2013 after a publicist asked me to write a review on her new book Turning the Pyramid Upside Down. I was so captivated by her book that I read through it in one sitting and was on the phone the next day to arrange an interview.
Then synchronicity took over. The very day I interviewed her, I was asked to speak at a conference in Chicago because a speaker was suddenly no longer available. When I mentioned to Marilyn that I would be in Chicago (where she lived) in two weeks, she immediately said she wanted to meet and hear me speak.
Her sudden passing moved me to go back to read her book and interview.
What I rediscovered was a bold and brilliant leader who has great wisdom to share with us for today’s world.
Highlights from my interview with Marilyn
“I say it has to be done rapidly and it has to be bold!”
Those words reverberated through me like a bolt of lightning when she said them to me when I interviewed her. I immediately felt the energy and power in her voice.
In her book, Marilyn shares many stories of how she has personally influenced many of today’s most forward-looking companies to turn the pyramid upside down to gain and secure competitive advantage in a global marketplace. The stories are fascinating and riveting. Marilyn states the challenge and the opportunity in the introduction to her book:
Leaders must partner and collaborate with their employees to respond to escalating complexities and inspire new thinking and discovery of fresh ideas. Employees cannot simply be instruments to achieve leaders’ goals; they must be allowed and even encouraged to participate in the decision-making and be fully engaged in the achievement of organizational goals.
Marilyn believes that “most change efforts sponsored at the top fail because the organization has become preoccupied with incremental improvement, there is uncertainty that the effort will stay the course, or the organization is already running at full capacity.”
Although turning the pyramid upside down may be seen as too radical by many leaders, she believes we are now at a real impasse, and bold leadership is required, and the clear choice to make. She states in the book:
The magnitude of leadership change necessary defies any possibility that it be incremental. Escalating complexity due to such factors as technology and globalization, along with the continuing need to make the numbers while becoming ever more innovative, requires a kind of organization capable of extraordinarily high levels of purpose, commitment, and synchronicity.
And she further clarifies why leaders are responsible for this impasse:
This impasse has come about because leaders do not provide the kind of information and inclusion in decision-making that would produce thought leaders or in any way ensure an engaged workforce.
I highly recommend Marilyn’s book for reading by all leaders. The stories of how she influenced one leader at a time to instigate bold change are truly genuinely inspiring, and a much-needed message for a world turned upside down.