Managing Change – Lesson from 80 ft of rope

I feel like there has been a tsunami of change in the last few months and the second wave is coming. The good news is that I study leadership and change so I should be prepared. Then reality sets in and having the knowledge does not reduce the physiological reality of change. As a change agent in organizations, I have a tool kit of professional techniques to create clarity, communicate a desired future, and involve people in the process. Yet change is still difficult. We mitigate the reality of change but we still have to generate the energy to achieve it. That has a consequence.

A story that mirrors organizational change

So imagine that you have never been on a wake board and your cousin says “I will teach you, it is fun”. He promised support; he had done this before and he promised the result will be rewarding. So you agree.  You say to yourself,  “I am going to do this.”

Just as you enter the water he gives you an out, “Just let go if you fall forward!”

No problem, I have seen how this is done. I have done similar things and I have a coach. Now I am in the water  80 ft behind the boat. I feel alone.

He yells back to me, “are you ready”.  I say “yes”. The boat accelerates.  I hold on and I put my nose over my toes and drink a large amount of lake. That is okay, I didn’t think I would get it the first time.

Two minutes later, I am ready to try again. I repeat going nose over my toes and drink some more lake. I now question “Maybe I can’t do this”.

Third time is the charm. I am up; I can hear Lady Ga Ga coming from the boat; I am wake-boarding! After a minute, I thinking “I am working a little harder than I need to “.  I experiment a little bit but this style of ride in not very familiar.

After two minutes, my right leg is burning; after three minutes I go over the wake knowing I will wipe out. It was fun but my energy is done. I get back in the boat.

Change takes energy. It takes practice and it may take failure before we feel success. When we learn new behaviours,  we must practice and exercise those new muscles. Days later my back muscles were still sore. At the time of change we may not even realize the new muscles we are using.

Tips in change – do the right things and use all the tools you have to mitigate the negative impacts but also set clear expectations that this will take effort and energy. To learn something new takes energy, it takes practice and it may take failure before you reap the reward. Last tip, build in rest pauses around your change process to enable your best effort.


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Filed under Leadership, Strategic Planning

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