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The Rearview Mirror

(A Change Management Article)

Progress is best measured in the rearview mirror.

Several years ago, I paid a visit to my kids at university and attended an antique car show that was being sponsored by one of the on-campus engineering clubs.

My daughter fell in love with an antique Rolls Royce and struck up a conversation with the owners. The dark burgundy almost black car with whitewall tires and distinctive chrome grill was like a member of their family, participating in all the family rituals including their children’s marriages. More photographs included the car than the children.

Many years before we met them, the couple bought the car in the United Kingdom and brought it back to the United States when the father transferred to California. Later, the father again moved, this time to the San Antonio area of Texas and he and his family drove the antique car to their new city. It is part of their story that illustrates some of the challenges we face in leading organizations.

One of the challenges they faced in driving to their new home was successfully traversing Death Valley. Recognizing the limitations of their beautiful antique vehicle, they traveled at night to minimize the heat. Unfortunately, the car’s whitewall tires were not as robust as needed. The glue sealed inner tubes could not withstand the temperature of the roadway and resulted in multiple flat tires during that one segment of the drive.

Nevertheless, their spirit prevailed. Stopping frequently to change tires, they eventually made it to the western border of Texas.

Excitedly both parents, woke their sleeping children to inform them they had just crossed the border into Texas and were almost there.

Little did they realize they still had 600 miles to go. They laughed as they told my daughter and me how surprised they were to discover the size of Texas, and how a day later their celebration of arrival was a little more meaningful.

In many transformations, we celebrate milestone achievements, recognizing where we are today is not where we started.

However, most of the time, we measure progress by how far we are from our goal. We look forward as a measure of progress. Anyone who has spent days driving across Texas knows that despite the distance left to traverse, the distance we have traveled is too far to walk back.

Honestly, this is a concept I struggled with for a while. I wanted to withhold the celebrations until we actually arrived, fully implemented the change, or completed the transformation. Yes, we should celebrate during those times, but we should also celebrate the different stage and progress victories we share along the way.

We have all been victims of the transformation celebration that declared complete victory when a portion of our organization or customers were left disabled by the change. How the celebration itself served to dishearten the organization, orphan a team of associates, or strand a segment of our customers.

It would have been more appropriate to celebrate the progress of the transformation looking back to see how far we have come, rather than celebrate a victory that hadn’t arrived.

Through the windshield of our organizations, the mountains we aspire to may not seem to be growing closer until we recognize the view in the rearview mirror has grown substantially distant and celebrate our progress.

Progress is best measured in the rearview mirror.

Wait to celebrate the victory, but don’t wait to celebrate progress.

© 2019 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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