“Beans I ain’t trying to change you/just give you some game. To make the transition from the streets to the fame.” - JayZ (2001) - Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)
These were the last words from what is considered by many as Jay-Z's greatest album, Blueprint. There couldn’t be a better vote of confidence from one rapper to another. Jay-Z was at this time considered the best rapper in the world and he was ending his classic album with a nod to Beans.
Who is Beans? I hear you ask. That will be Beanie Siegel; one of Jay-Z protégés, who in the early 2000s was tipped as the next in line to take on the role as the lead rapper of the Rocafella Records empire.
Unfortunately this never materialised. Not for the lack of lyrical ability or even willingness. Beans seemed keen - in his words at least.
I'm the truth I'm not lying / I'm the reason why Jay feels comfortable retiring… - Beanie Siegel (1999) - Pop 4 Roc
But a couple of years later Beanie Sigel was facing weapons charges and a federal prison sentence.
In hindsight there was a gap between JayZ and Beans paradigm of thinking and what it meant to build lasting wealth.
Beanie hadn’t evolved into the Empire State of Mind that Jay-Z and his business partners Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs were trying to build. Roc-a-fella was built on the vision of a Dynasty that would be passed on to different generation of rappers.
The Philly native Beans was simply a product of his environment, something Nas famously rapped about in back in 1994.
“Be having dreams that I am a gangster/sipping Moët, holding techs/Making sure the cash correct then I stepped/Investments in stocks, sowing up the blocks to sell rocks/Winning gunfights with mega cops, but just a n***a rolling with my finger on a trigger…” - Nas (1994) - NY State of Mind
Politics Is Usual
A lot of managers struggle with this in the corporate world. Unable to inspire people to step up and take on some more responsibility or simply accept change.
This is made even more difficult where change is forced up on you from external forces and the business needs to make improvements quickly in order to keep the lights on.
In the case of Roc-a-fella, they were about to be faced with Nas’ Ether diss record to Jay-Z, as well as Dr Dre and Eminem pushing Queens rapper 50Cent into superstardom. The Dynasty was under threat.
“You got fat whilst we starved, it’s our turn…” - 50Cent (2002) Not Like Me
How do you inspire, a team of people who have had it good for so long? Never seeing the day where innovation was going to not only create new jobs and opportunities but also create redundancies.
It is also one of the toughest challenges I have had to overcome working on multiple digital transformation projects for clients and in my career.
My goal has always been to get everyone onboard, even those who are against the change have to understand the road of travel and the role that they will play.
Here are some of the tools and mental models I used to get everyone onboard towards defining and delivering what success would look like - for all of us.
1) “Change The Game”: ADKAR
One of my go-to frameworks in my Lean Six-Sigma tool box for change is ADKAR, which stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Action and Reinforcement.
The method designed by Jeff Hiatt is particularly useful from my experience because it starts with Awareness, making sure all parties are aware of the WHY behind the change. Which leads to Desire, their willingness to participate in the change is majorly important in order to keep the wheels of change turning.
It is here at Desire, where a lot of people get stuck and where a diverse range of techniques and mental models are required to pass this critical mark. If not, your transformation project is almost guaranteed to fail.
Why is desire so important? The mutterings about ‘how it is not going to work’ is one of the most toxic attitudes towards growth of any entity. Also simply telling people ‘we need to do this or none of us are going to have a job’ is not helpful either, even though it is a highly plausible reality.
Here is where the Inversion Model comes in.
2)“Smarten Up Nas”: Inversion Model
There is a great quote from Farnham Street blog on Inversion Model, where they quote Charlie Monger’s infamous quote of “All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there.”
Inversion Mental model is basically thinking back and forth about the problem trying to unearth blockers and belief systems that are not helpful in solving your problem.
In a transformation project this involves having deep discussions and mental mapping with stakeholder as to why past projects didn’t work and try to unearth what I call ‘truisms’ that you can both agree on.
Especially with digital transformation projects, there is a lot of noise out there around Brexit and AI taking people’s jobs, you can imagine why simply rushing through a change in response to these external factors could lead people into becoming defensive.
In the case of Roc-a-Fella, maybe there was some oversight on Jay-Z’s part on what barriers and obstacles that may have stood in Beanie’s way of transitioning from the streets to the fame.
“I had no Damon Dash’, my partners were maniacs, wish I had a Damon/ I would have been straight up with that sh*t/No Puff I had crack sellers to trust...” - Nas (2019) Won’t Take My Soul
I am not sure what conversation Jay-Z, and his business partners Dame Dash and Kareem Burke had or didn’t have with Sigel, but I anticipate that the above Nas lyrics would have been some of the outcome of such conversation if an inversion model was applied.
Jay-Z even raps in the lyrics preceding the advice to Beans
“My momma loves me...Jaz made me believe the s**t was real/Labels turned me down, [they] couldn't foresee/Clark sought me out, Dame believed…”.
It took a village of people to overcome his obstacles.
As a Leader it is very important to be aware of survivor bias of ‘if I could do it, so could you’. There are always nuances that are not always articulated because they are not always conscious.
This is why external change management are typically not as effective as building continuous improvement culture in organisations.
As a Lean Six Sigma practitioner, I start each project with the goal of it being led and run entirely by the employees in the business. Models like Inversion thinking, require ample time invested in understanding people’s motivations and ways of working, this simply can’t be done by someone who is only in the business on a project by project basis.
So now let’s imagine we have passed the obstacles around desire and we have everyone on board. We now need to know if they have the knowledge and ability to deliver.
3) “U Don’t Know”: Known / Unknown Matrix
A useful tool in this area is the Known / Unknown matrix, which lets the organisation or individual be honest around what they know and don’t know. It is then the job of the facilitator to highlight from their industry experience what they may not be aware of, and set out a plan on how to get there. This is particularly useful as you move in to the Knowledge and ability areas of the ADKAR Model.
‘Dedicated, Determined and disciplined, When Diddy, Baby and Hova are talking I am listening..’ - Meek Mill (2015) Cold Hearted
So we have the awareness and taken steps to close the knowledge and ability gap, and are able to take action.
But how do we make sure that the change is reinforced and the organisation doesn’t go back to its old practices.
4)“Had to get out of the hood”: One True Metric
There have been a number of reports about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg having a single metric which he leads the business with. This is a very powerful North star for all involved to work towards, and the measure of whether or not the organisation is on the right track.
Simply put, what one metric is of the highest importance to the business? For a social media platform like Facebook it could be the number of hours people spend on the platform or an ecommerce business it could be conversion rate of their website.
“I only meant good from my mouth to God's ears/I had to get out of the hood…” - Jay Z (2002) Diamond Is Forever
Not entirely sure if the North star for Roc-a-fella was to get out of the hood. But it was evident what message Jay was trying to convey here, seeing as it was the first time he openly talked about what he prayed for. People generally pray for their “North Star” or in business the key performance indicator / one true metric.
In the same song you can hear Jay-Z rap about fighting new battles away from the streets but now in gated communities.
“High society don’t [doesn’t] want me to move, into the penthouse building with spectacular views…” - JayZ (2002) Diamond Is Forever
But seems like he was persistent in using it as a form of inspiration to his peers.
“I bring the brothers to the building/give them the feeling that I don’t give a f***/we are just chilling watching Chandelier ceilings high as f***/Oh lady don’t blow my high/especially since you don’t know my life...I was a victim of a single parent household…” - JayZ
The song was the last time we heard JayZ rap about the potential of his roster. Did he become tired of leading by example? Was it his job to be both artist and coach or was that for Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs?
Sigel would later talk on Taxstone podcast, how he would take his Bentley Continental to his own neighbourhood and let his friends drive it around as well as supporting them financially.
“If every n**** in your clique is rich, your clique is rugged/Nobody will fall because everyone would be each other crutches...these are the rules I follow in my life you got to love it…” - Jay-Z (1996) Feelin’ It
These principles were also shared by Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs, who themselves had diverse range of business investments and aspired to partner up with their peers on business opportunities. They too lived outside the hood, even having properties as far as the Royal Borough of Kensington, London.
But somehow from what we know the practice didn’t translate to Beanie Sigel, as he later explained the practical mistakes he made around his loyalty to the streets.
Maybe with some more coaching and inversion mental modelling / “fathering” from his bosses, Beans could see that the Northstar was to get out of the hood and provide wealth creation opportunities for the streets - not to still be actively present in its activities.
“Can I get an Encore?”
But can the blueprint work for people outside of Jay-Z, Dame and Biggs.
It would seem so, with Rick Ross being an example of someone who took the Blueprint and went on to build Maybach Music Empire and 10s of millions of dollars of wealth.
‘Young Hov, I see you ni***/ I got the Blueprint in my back pocket ni***/I did what you told me ni***…” - Rick Ross (2015) Icon
There you have it some of the tools I have found effective in transformation projects. The major takeaway is that these are not as simple as setting a vision - it takes empathy and leading from the front and behind.
Plug: Roc Boys WorkShop
I am working on releasing a workshop for millennial founders and employees with management ambitions. The aim of the workshop is to help them become more strategic and data driven in their business practices. The case studies will be based around the multi billion dollar wealth created by the Roc-a-Fella dynasty from Jay-Z, to Kanye West, Rihanna, J Cole and more.
If you would like to hear more sign up below.