Feb 7, 2018
Chris Laping, Author, Co-Founder and CEO
at People Before Things, LLC, joins Jan and Jim in a discussion
about change — why it seems so straightforward but fails so often.
The key to change is a culture of empowerment and respect.
Chris shares the genesis of the philosophy of People Before
Things and how it grew from his leadership roles in IT. His
curiosity led him to explore the conditions that prepare people for
change and conditions that block change. Change is not a function
of a team’s attitude but of their preparation and capacity. It is
the role of the leader to prepare the team, communicate the why and
how to them, and grant them the space to perform the necessary
change in a culture of empowerment.
[4:47] Chris explains how he developed the framework for People
Before Things. He stepped into IT leadership and found that it was
difficult to build organizational buy-in for change. He looked for
patterns to explain success or lack of success and he learned that
change was not the end user’s problem but a leadership
[5:35] Chris sees two patterns for successful change: first,
enable people for change by nurturing conditions that set
people up for change, and second, activate people for
change by nurturing conditions that inspire engagement and make
team members willing accomplices to the change. Someone who is
already heavily scheduled won’t work on the change if it is not
[8:06] Respect, collaboration, trust, and a unified vision are
the attributes for project success. Leaders don’t always have these
in their toolbox. Their toolbox is getting work done, performance,
excellence, and continuous improvement. They need to intertwine a
culture of empowerment with the tools of getting work done. Chris
gauges a company’s health by how they tackle tough problems
[11:01] There is always change in an IT department. It is not
the technology that solves problems. Chris has seen many managers
become enamored with technology as an end, and not as a means to an
end. Finance and HR leaders are especially susceptible to this.
Building business capability is the goal. This is people’s work,
not technology’s work. Culture is more critical than
[15:43] Initiating technology projects without basing them on
the culture sets up failure. Communicating and training on the
technology is no substitute for communicating why there is new
technology, and how it fits in the mission.
[19:27] In the IT world there is often talk about executive
sponsors. It should be executive ownership, not just sponsorship.
Executives need to emphasize how important this change is in the
organization. They need to show up and be involved all the time.
They need to be invested in the team and the team’s success.
Executives and their team together need to be accountable to the
same outcome and results.
[24:20] Chris’s father and other great leaders modeled
intellectual curiosity and asking questions. Feedback loops require
not just asking for feedback but actually doing something about the
feedback. The important thing Chris learned from leaders is that
questions led to action about the information. This reinforces the
feedback loop. People learn their input will be heard, considered,
[27:36] Chris offers two disruptive ideas: first, that change is
a leadership opportunity. It’s not about team members refusing to
change but about leaders enabling change. The heavy lifting is
getting your team into position to win. The second idea is that
real change happens at the grassroots level. It is important to get
a common voice established in the rank and file. They often hold
the key to solutions.
[29:57] Chris talks about offsite meetings. If your takeaway is
a strategy that you will increase sales and improve profitability,
you wasted your time. Your team comes to work daily already knowing
this. Rather than spending time stating the obvious, get aligned on
a common goal and why that goal is important.
[32:32] Chris defines strategy as prioritization. Treat
resources as precision tools to apply in just the right place.
Don’t let abundant resources make you complacent. Keep a sharp
focus to reinvest in the things that bring the most benefit.
Prioritize the two or three things that matter the most.
[37:31] Chris’s advice for his 10-year-younger version of
himself: Be patient. Writing a book, sharing ideas, and building
strong awareness for those ideas can be a slow build. There are no
overnight successes. Chris starts from square one every day with
his message, because most people haven’t heard them.
Facebook: People Before
Chris learned creativity from his classical pianist mother and
structure from his Navy Commander father.
Leaders enable and activate people for change.
“It became very clear that the patterns around success … really
had to do with me and that change wasn’t my end users’
“People, in general, are very purpose-driven and want to make a
difference at work.”
“When [people] know why something is important, you get different
“If change is really important and vital to an organization, we
must clear the decks and let people focus on it.”
Leaders have to prioritize time and space for a change or it
will not happen.
Respect, collaboration, trust, and a unified vision are all
attributes for a winning project.
“Technology is the vitamin and culture and how we treat people
is really, truly the painkiller.”
“The worst thing you can do is actually ask them for their
feedback or opinion and then proceed to do nothing about it.”
The keys to disruption are for leadership to enable the team to
change and for the team to give voice to their feedback.
“If the opposite of your strategy isn’t a strategy, then you
don’t have a strategy.”
“When organizations have priority and focus, the capacity they
need to accomplish the things that are essential is there.”
“Prioritize — of the 20 things we could do to win the game, what
are the two or three that matter the most?”
Chris Laping, author & CEO, People Before
Things, LLC, brings 25 years of information technology and business
transformation experience to his newly released book, People
Before Things, which focuses on change leadership. Chris
enjoyed 14 years as a Chief Information Officer across three
different brands and the work of his teams has been spotlighted in
the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fast
Company, and CIO Magazine, among others. His book
explores the connection of the human experience to the outcomes of
change and transformation initiatives and the role leaders play to
Most recently, Chris was the Senior Vice President, Business
Transformation and Chief Information Officer at Red Robin Gourmet
Burgers, where he was a highly contributing member of a management
team that completed a successful turnaround of an $8 stock to
Chris has received several awards for his work in the IT
industry including The Economist’s Top 5 Social Business Leader and
InformationWeek’s Social Business Technology Leader. He has also
been named as a ComputerWorld Premier 100 IT Leader and has
received three InfoWorld 100 awards. The work of his teams has been
spotlighted in three books: The Engaged Leader, Mobile
Mind Shift, and Implementing World Class IT
Books mentioned in this episode
People Before Things: Change Isn't an End-User Problem, by