Full disclosure – this week is a slightly longer one. I hope you enjoy it.

Pulling the Thread: On Leverage

As my clients could probably attest, one of my favourite sayings at the moment is “I don’t know where we’re going to end up yet, but let’s pull the thread and see.” In that vein, there’s a few ideas I’ve come across this week that would be interesting to apply the change leadership lens to.

In particular it’s the idea of ‘Using Leverage To Create Outperformance’.

Now we’re all well accustomed to the basic idea of leverage. Smaller inputs to control or utilise larger outputs. Anyone with a mortgage is familiar with what it can look like in a financial sense – you’re controlling a larger asset by putting down only a portion of its value. (You then get to watch your repayments rise every month at the RBA keeps jacking up interest rates…)

But the same idea applies across almost all aspects of our organisations. Anything that you can develop once and use many times is, at its core, leverage. It’s a small outlay of time for larger output of use.

Pulling this thread further, this week I came across a model that stipulated that there were ‘4 C’s of leverage’:

  • Code (write good software once, and sell many times)
  • Content (write down good knowledge once, then share many times)
  • Capital (borrow cash to do more)
  • Collaboration (work with or hire good people so you can work less hours with a greater output.)

The question I want to pull the thread on this week is what does leverage look like for us as change leaders? → And should there be different ‘C’s for us?

Finding Leverage As a Change Leader

To get you thinking here, as we pull this thread – this is the lens I want you to keep in mind:

Question: If I tasked you with halving the total time of your project, incurring only minimally more cost and with minimal changes to output quality – how would you do it?

The answer to that question is through Creative uses of Leverage.

First – let’s tackle the obvious one:


One of the fastest shortcuts to failure for any project is to work in isolation. From small process improvement projects that squirrel away in a corner, to large restructures that disappear into a black box for months. Only for their big reveal to be received with mass abhor.

Isolation kills projects.

So, if you need to get more done rapidly – then it’s time to leverage ‘collaboration’. Hire more people, second people in, or otherwise find ways to grow the labour reach of your project.

But what happens when you aren’t allowed to hire anyone (or if hiring someone would take longer than the project?! – – Government agencies I’m looking at you here…)

Well, then your collaboration may take more ‘creative’ forms. You may need to leverage labour you don’t own:

  • You could create dedicated cross-section working groups (not pseudo-governance bodies – but groups that give out homework and drive real outputs).
  • Or perhaps it’s time you look through internal job applicant & EOI lists to actively enlist and empower (and then load up) change champions with ‘growth opportunities’.

Question: How can you get more people involved and doing work on your project?

Code. (Or Contagions?!)

While the purest form of this is intended to mean ‘software’, most change leaders I work with don’t have choice or control over the systems they use. So, what does Code mean in this context?

It’s your processes & rituals.

But the leverage here isn’t just setting up meetings and filling out templates.

It’s running a project that’s so tied up in a bow that others can’t help but think “that guy (or girl) has their shit sorted.”

It’s running things differently. Trying out new things. Learning collaboratively and pivoting adaptively.

A project is, by nature, a temporary endeavour. So it’s the perfect time to try out new ways of making decisions, learning, growing and interacting.

It’s that kind of thing that ripples out. When a project is excitedly different, then people want to be involved. People want to talk about it. Contagious passive internal marketing happens.

And that, dear leaders, is leverage.

Question: What can your project do that’s both exciting and different for those working on it?


Content is all about reusability. Frameworks, models, templates, etc.

But anyone can google a framework and download a free template set.

Your job as a change leader is to reflect on and then package up your previously successful ventures so you can reproduce that success time and time again. Shift your expertise from:

‘A messy mental library of experiences’


‘This is the step by step process I go through to implement restructure projects’
(or whatever type of your project your expertise is in.)

But don’t stop there. High performing organisations are ones that embrace this idea. Reuse. Reuse. Reuse.

When I used to do hands-on PMO maturity uplift work – I used to joke that whenever I’d start, I’d go search the archives because basically every possible template, report and toolset would already be there. I never had to reinvent (just resurrect).

Resist the impulse that your situation is different this time.

It is. But it’s not.

Question: Where is your project acting like it’s the first to do something?

Capital. (Think Bigger)

Borrow funds & increase scale. That’s the heart of this leverage point.

Now borrowing funds is damn hard to do for 80% of the projects that you’re leading. (How many of your projects could you take to a bank or Venture Capitalist tomorrow and get it funded? – I’d guess close to none).

But that’s no reason you can’t be thinking bigger – increasing the scale of your change.

Now a massive disclaimer here – – It’s well known that the larger the scale of a change project, the more likely the chance of its failure. However, so many of my clients come to me asking “why does no one give a damn about my project?”

My response is usually: “Well, why should they?”

Increasing scale and impact can be a nice remedy to this. It also comes with an added bonus: more cash means more options to best drive real value through your project.

So how do we do it?

Well, whether you’re borrowing funds, seeking investment or looking to play a bigger game – it’s all about the art of pitching. When it comes to pitching, there’s an old marketing trick that I share in my training sessions that always make people gasp:

Stab, twist then cure. (Stab them with the problem, twist it until it hurts, then offer them the cure).

Yes a bigger project means more risk, but it also means more impact (and cash to achieve things faster).

Question: Where is your project intentionally making concessions or ignoring blindspots because it’s artificially constrained?

Final thoughts

Ok. Thread successfully pulled. Go forth and conquer.

…Now to chat to my clients this week about ways to slash their projects in half.

See you all next week.