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Cover for Terms of Engagement

Terms of Engagement

Changing the Way We Change Organizations

Richard H. Axelrod


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Building engagement is crucial for every organization. But the traditional top-down coercive change management paradigm—in which leaders “light a fire” under employees—actually discourages engagement.

Richard Axelrod offers a better way. After debunking six common change management myths, he offers a proven, practical strategy for getting everyone—not just select committees or working groups—enthusiastically committed to organizational transformation. This revised edition features new interviews—everyone from the vice president of global citizenship at Cirque du Soleil to a Best Buy clerk—and new neuroscience findings that support Axelrod’s model. It also shows how you can foster engagement through everyday conversations, staff meetings, and work design.

Praise For Terms of Engagement: Changing the Way We Change Organizations

“Over 70 percent of organization change efforts fail. Clearly, change management needs an overhaul. Just as clearly, Dick Axelrod has provided the tools for reformation. Engaging people may seem obvious, but how to do it is not. This highly useful book provides enlightenment for the not-so-obvious.”
—Warner Burke, PhD, Edward Lee Thorndike Professor of Psychology and Education and Chair, Department of Organization and Leadership, Teachers College, Columbia University

“Why is Terms of Engagement an enduring classic? Because its insights are rooted in a deep understanding of how people in organizations actually think and work. Timeless wisdom in a profoundly engaging form.”
—Sally Helgerson, coauthor of The Female Vision and author of The Female Advantage and The Web of Inclusion

“A manual on closing the gap between how an organization’s people need to change and how they can and want to change.”
—Art Kleiner, Editor-in-Chief, Strategy+Business

“Brings together solid neuroscience research with simple, clear frameworks and tells a great story to make it all easy to digest.”
—David Rock, founder, Results Coaching Systems; cofounder, The NeuroLeadership Institute; and author of Your Brain at Work

“Dick is a wizard. This book is important. Few people in the world of transformation have Dick’s insights, concrete thinking, and methods for making change stick.”
—Peter Block, author of Stewardship, Flawless Consulting, and Community

Terms of Engagement is a manual on closing the gap between how an organization's people need to change, and how they can and want to change.”
—Art Kleiner, Editor-in-Chief, strategy+business

Terms of Engagement makes it clear that change management is an oxymoron. Real change requires engagement rather than engineering. Axelrod sets forth the art and science of how.”
—Sally Helgesen, author of The Female Vision, The Female Advantage, and The Web of Inclusion

“Over seventy percent of organization change efforts fail. Clearly change management needs an overhaul. Just as clearly Dick Axelrod has provided the tools for reformation..”
—Warner Burke, Edward Lee Thorndike Professor of Psychology and Education and Chair, Department of Organization and Leadership, Teachers College, Columbia University

“By implementing Dick Axelrod’s change principles and practices, our engineering team has a renewed vision for working together and a real hope for a brighter future. His engagement model is now a fundamental part of our people plan and the way we address significant change.”
—Hank Queen, Vice President, Engineering and Manufacturing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes

“‘Engagement’ is to organizational performance what ’cloud computing’ is to improved computational performance. Axelrod’s model links the power of people in the pursuit of excellence. It is both an architecture and a process for responding quickly to changing business conditions.”
—Michael J. Freeman, Worldwide Training Manager, Agilent Technologies

“Dick Axelrod is one of our longest serving and most successful instructors. Terms of Engagement makes what he teaches in the classroom available to all. In an age when too many of us position technology and leaders at the center of our analysis, Axelrod does something profoundly important by redirecting our attention to the role of community and interaction in accomplishing change and achieving innovation.”
—Steve Laymon, PhD, Associate Dean for Business and Professional Programs, Graham School of General Studies, University of Chicago

“I have seen these ideas in action. This is the fieldbook of change tools and techniques!”
—Charlotte Roberts, coauthor of The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook and The Dance of Change

“Over the years, I’ve learned a great deal from Dick Axelrod about how to truly engage people in creating real organizational change. The learnings in this book are essential for us to understand in these times of relentless change.”
—Margaret J. Wheatley, author of Leadership and The New Science and Turning to One Another

“Dick Axelrod is among the best there is when it comes to bringing people together from across silos and hierarchies so they can make significant organizational contributions. If you want your business strategy to be more than words on paper, heed this book’s lessons.”
—Peter Koestenbaum, author of Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness and The Philosophic Consultant

“I experienced Dick’s change process firsthand and saw amazing results! To attempt successful change without this book in hand is like entering a strange city without a GPS.”
—Sharon Jordan-Evans, coauthor of Love ’Em or Lose ’Em

“Axelrod provides the reader an opportunity to become an active participant in a different kind of change: the change that will energize an organization to new levels of performance and satisfaction.”
—Richard Teerlink, former Chairman, Harley-Davidson

“If you are interested in change management, Dick Axelrod has written the book for you. The first edition contained a lot of good material, but this edition goes way beyond those ideas. I am going to use it with all of my organization design clients to ensure implementation.”
—Jay Galbraith, President, Galbraith Management Consultants Ltd.

“My clients gobbled up the first edition of Terms of Engagement. Just wait until they get their hands on the second edition. Dick widened his own circle of involvement for this new edition through background interviews, correlations with the latest brain research, and new stories from healthcare, utilities, cities, and airlines—proof positive he is the real deal. This new change management stuff really works.”
—Christine Whitney Sanchez, President, Collaborative Wisdom & Strategy

“In this new edition of what is already a classic, Dick Axelrod shares even more honest insights and actual examples. You will come away from reading this book with a greater confidence in the case for, and the how-to of, embracing the power of true engagement.”
—Amy Kates, coauthor of Designing Dynamic Organizations

“The first edition of Terms of Engagement’s pragmatic, principled ideas and methods ensured it would become a must-read classic for executives and change consultants alike. In the second edition, these ideas have been updated and additional materials added to each chapter to help people apply these now-proven principles and practices. And, of course, it is still a must-read classic.”
—Robert J. Marshak, Scholar in Residence, School of Public Affairs, American University, and author of Covert Processes at Work

“Engagement is the ‘new organizational form’ and key to the success of organizations and communities around the world. In describing engagement as a new model of change and as a way of working, Dick puts forth its principles and practices and tells us how to make it happen.”
—Diana Whitney, coauthor of Appreciative Leadership and The Power of Appreciative Inquiry

“I’ve experienced firsthand some of Dick’s techniques for engaging people. Following his change principles has helped me tremendously. The first edition of Terms of Engagement is the most-worn volume on my book shelf; I’m sure the second edition will take over first place in no time. The new material on job design and brain science adds great insights.”
—Annette Freund, Vice President, Corporate HR and Support, Navistar, Inc.

“What struck me when I read this book was the extraordinary combination—in one place—of pragmatic theory, real-life accounts, and practical advice for those wishing to implement major organizational change. Dick’s well-researched, pragmatic principles provide solid foundations for engaging people to accomplish great things.”
—Tom Devane, author of Integrating Lean Six Sigma and High-Performance Organizations and coauthor of The Change Handbook

Terms of Engagement is an inspiring journey of engagement—combining a landscape of practice and principles, scientific insight, and compassionate wisdom. It will be an indispensable guide to anyone serious about improving the way we bring people together for noble and sustainable work.”
—Mila N. Baker, Senior Consultant, The World Bank Group

Terms of Engagement is all about the why, the what, and the how of employee engagement and makes the case better than anything else out there.”
—Matt Minihan, Partner, Sapience Organizational Consulting

“This new edition of Terms of Engagement creates an even more compelling case for a new, different, and potentially more effective way to go about organizational change. If you’re looking for current step-by-step help on change management, this is for you.”
—Sara Hakanson, Vice President of Organizational Development and HRD, Otto Bock Healthcare

“This new version of Terms of Engagement is terrific. I love the distinction Dick makes between old change management practices and new. In keeping with this new thinking, he writes the book in a way so that you can lead change on your own.”
—Rick Maurer, author of Beyond the Wall of Resistance

“This revision holds new and updated material that is essential to rectifying the current crisis of leadership and provides practical ways to assist changes in organizations that are not only needed but sustainable.”
—Angeles Arrien, cultural anthropologist and award-winning author of The Second Half of Life

“Axelrod has been watching, studying, managing, and engaging in change for most of his life. Learn from this master.”
—Geoff Bellman, coauthor of Extraordinary Groups

“In many corporations, people are fed up with change management. Dick shows how you can change organizations with people, not in spite of them. Use his insights and benefit from his practical experience. I promise you it will work because I experienced it myself.”
—Manfred Höefler, Managing Director, Integrated Consulting Group, Austria

“The Axelrod team has succeeded in making a good product better. I confess that the phrase ‘change management’ leaves me cringing as only a good oxymoron can do—but all that aside, this book goes well beyond the superficial phrase down to the hardcore realities of organizations and how to make them fully functional. It is all about people, engaged people—and this book will get you there.”
—Harrison Owen, author and creator of Open Space Technology

“In the search for simple ways to address the complex challenges facing organizations, Dick Axelrod provides welcome insights. The powerful principles and practices he names are key to change that works. The stories he tells bring the ideas to life. Bravo!”
—Peggy Holman, author of Engaging Emergence and The Change Handbook

“To say that the new and expanded version of Richard Axelrod’s Terms of Engagement is important reading for managers and consultants is a significant understatement. It is required reading for anyone interested in and involved in organizational change. Richard Axelrod is acknowledged as one of our major contributors to the field of organization development. This work continues to reinforce his reputation.”
—Peter Sorensen, PhD, Director of PhD/MOB Programs, Benedictine University

“We know a lot about engaging brains and brawn in the workplace, but we are just beginning to understand what it means to engage the whole person—brains, brawn, imagination, spirit, and common sense. Dick Axelrod’s personal story and practical insights take us to a deeper place. Thank you for your tremendous contribution.”
—Sandra Janoff, PhD, codirector, Future Search Network, and coauthor of Future Search and Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There

“Sometimes wisdom is made accessible to all. A great book for those serious about improving their organization, regardless of your definition of ‘improvement.’”
—Barry Johnson, author of Polarity Management

“A timely and essential review for leaders wanting to enhance their capacity to motivate their workforces to achieve breakthrough business and organizational value.”
—David Isaacs and Juanita Brown, cofounders, The World Café Community

“The new ‘engagement paradigm’ that Axelrod challenges us to embrace is effectively demonstrated in numerous real-life examples enhanced by guiding principles, graphics, and summaries at the end of each chapter. This is a ‘must book’ for anyone leading organizational change.”
—Billie T. Alban and Barbara Benedict Bunker, coauthors of Large Group Interventions and The Handbook of Large Group Interventions

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 9781605094472, 264pp.

Publication Date: October 4, 2010

About the Author

Richard Axelrod is a founder of and principal in the Axelrod Group, Inc. His clients include Boeing, Coca-Cola, Corning, Ford, Harley-Davidson, Hewlett-Packard, and Kaiser Permanente. He is the coauthor of You Don’t Have to Do It Alone.