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The Hidden Speedometers of Change


(A Change Management Article)

Sometimes for an organization to move forward, the best pace of change is not that which we desire, nor the business need, but that which the organization can best adopt.

As the commercial begins the camera shot opens to show the sleek curves of a beautiful sports car, … powerful, elegant, efficient. The camera shot widens slightly and we see the front of the car, racing uphill, trees on one side and cliffs on the other. The engine noise takes your breath away in envy, and the thought goes through your head, that life would be good if you just had that car. The perfect commercial, the perfect message, … that is what the seller wanted us to think.

Then the camera slowly zooms out, and we see the beautiful, expensive, elegant roadster is pulling a decades-old travel trailer. And what we thought was a high speed ascent is proven to be not very fast as vehicle after vehicle passes the roadster on its quest to conquer the hill. In addition, we realize that the pace of the roadster is a struggle for the travel trailer whose tail constantly whips back and forth on every bump in the road.

This analogy usually matches one of the most common mistakes we make as leaders of change. We misdiagnose the organization’s capability for change, either by equating it to what we desire, what our leaders say, or what the organization needs. None of which are a true reflection of capability.

The conversation usually begins with the words, “We need to be faster, quicker, more agile. We are not fast enough.” Your industry, if like most, is undergoing transformation, and your organization is likely carrying technical debt that is inhibiting its ability to change, keeping it behind the times. However, more significant than the technical debt as an inhibitor of change, is the culture.

A new leader is often brought in to transform an organization. The organization may have a great reputation and a history of success, but is now faced with a changing business environment. The new leader is faced with the challenge to deliver on the new direction quickly. He or she may even bring in a partner to assist with assessing the environment and helping to drive the change.

However what is often overlooked is the fact that an organization has multiple speedometers of change. In this scenario the partner asks the new leader, “what pace of change they would like; are they seeking a revolutionary or evolutionary approach?” They then concentrate on identifying what needs to change to meet the new goals. Sound right?

Only problem. Most miss one vital question. “How quickly CAN the organization change?” This question left unanswered by the organization or if answered by the leader fails to identify that the capability of the organization to change falls far short of the desire of their leadership. Left unreconciled, the change may fail, the leader may fail, and the organization may fail.

The challenge is discovering these hidden speedometers. Among others, they will vary by organization, by hierarchy, by geography, by leadership, and by history.

The road vibrations that begin at the rear of the travel trailer will be transmitted throughout the caravan. If not prepared to travel at the same speed, every obstacle, every pothole, every speed bump represents an opportunity to let our competition pass us, break the connection between the leader and their organization, or plunge both over the cliff.

Sometimes for an organization to move forward, the best pace of change is not that which we desire, nor the business need, but that which the organization can best adopt.

© 2018 Barry Robbins, Silver Bear Solutions

Contact The Author

Barry Robbins is an IT Executive with a strong record of success in transforming IT organizations by envisioning, developing, and implementing IT business solutions.


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