21 Days, or More

The book Deep Change, by Robert E. Quinn, is a different sort of business book. Although it does consist of charts and tables, the primary thrust of each chapters are well-told stories of how people in organizations realized their own fallibility and overcame it, changing irrevocably. When I first encountered the book, I placed my own previously learned theories against the principles espoused in the book: the 21-day change.

When I was growing up, my mother always told me that to make proactive change in your life, you needed to do something actively for 21 days straight. On the 22nd day, she claimed, what you were doing would form a habit, and it would become embedded into you like a motor skill. Although that method may seem a little sparse on the details, it is not surprising that Quinn’s book is exactly 21 chapters long (minus the two prelude chapters, which illuminate the background to why deep change is difficult), and each chapter is seemingly intended to be read a day at time. However, Quinn goes into much greater detail in each chapter, covering a variety of subjects, from various steps to overcoming personal change, to specific problems organizations have in transforming, to finally listing principles that both people and organizations need to adopt when making deep change. The book is not only a guidebook on how to create deep change, but it is also a textbook on various subjects that both hinder and support deep change.

Quinn begins by going over several steps to ensure deep change. I have simplified them primarily for myself, so that I could create a model of steps to undertake:


Recognition of fear Begin the journey Finding life in the process Getting rid of old ideas Paradigm shift Establishing core values Building a new foundation


The second part of Quinn’s book illuminates various ways in which organizations have trouble with deep change. Much of this section of the book talks both about positive and negative methods that organizations use to handle change. He speaks of about five problems organizations face when dealing with change, namely: 1. Denial of the need for change, 2. Being lost but not knowing where the answer lies, 3. Complicated politics in upper-level management, 4. Being overwhelmed with the technical aspects of operating a business, and 5. Overcoming dependence and routine that is inevitably established. Although these five problems do plague organizations, they only serve as good examples of troubles that can come up. This is not an exhaustive section on organizational problems when pertaining to deep change.

The last section is perhaps Quinn’s achievement of the book. Overall, this section was very helpful is assessing aspects to attach to oneself or one’s organization when attempting deep change. However, like much of Quinn’s book, it seems like a box of playing blocks that can be put on top of each other to form a very strong structure, as they seem to be random ideas he has played at over the years with little cohesive qualities except for their excellent value as individual essays. As someone who was very interested in the method of deep change, I felt this section was too haphazard to be used outside of specific contexts. It felt more like a reference manual or a glossary of good ideas. I put the ideas into a short chart that hopefully will clarify some of Quinn’s wonderful points. For this chart, the leader is at the center of the diagram imbuing a sense of confidence, and then using organizational empowerment, helps the organization model the exterior attributes.