Organizational change initiatives are complex in part because they can succeed or fail based on variables such as human psychology, business agility, economic environments, leadership skills, communication skills, technical capability, and even the occasional lucky break. Managing change is a combination of business acumen, social instinct, and leadership abilities that can’t be reduced to silly, oversimplified analogies.
On the other hand, change initiatives are a lot like getting new shoes.
- Eventually you’re going to need new shoes. You can’t put it off forever – even if you resole the pair you love, you already know that’s a stopgap measure. You know now that one day you’re going to need to get rid of what you’re wearing in favor of something else. If you wait until your shoes have holes in them, then you’ll have a lot less flexibility in looking for replacements.
Do you want to be searching for new shoes because you have to have something immediately, or do you want to search for the next pair while you have the luxury of taking your time? Do you think you’ll more easily find the right fit if you search carefully, or if you search while in a state of dire need?
- In all likelihood, the exact make and model of the shoes you’re wearing now won’t be available when you need new ones. Even classics get changed, updated, or taken out of production. If you have convinced yourself that you can only function in one particular brand, style, or color of shoe then you may find yourself barefoot while looking for the new ones – and that may be a fool’s errand.
Is your ability to function going to be helped or hindered by the constraints you have established for the new shoes? Are you certain that the constraints are meaningful?
- Even if the same shoes are available, your activities and needs may be different by the time you get the new ones. You might have a new job, suit, or fashion taste by the time you’re in the market for that new pair. Maybe you bought an extra pair when you found them. Even so, eventually your supply will run out.
Are you willing to bet your future mobility on your hunch that neither your activities nor the environment in which you operate will change? Does that seem like a wise risk to you?
- You may not be able to afford custom-built shoes. Some folks can guarantee that they’ll never have to wear shoes that were mass produced. Most of the world will have to buy something off a shelf.
Can you afford a custom solution for your new shoes? Does your budget make that a realistic option? Or will you get further, faster, by doing a careful search of more affordable options?
- There may be some discomfort involved. Even when new shoes fit great in the store, when they get put into action in the real world, you might get a blister at first. Eventually both the feet and the shoes adapt to each other.
The process of change is inevitably going to bring some degree of discomfort. That doesn’t mean you discard the shoes – it means you may have to stretch them, break them in, and give them time to mold to your physical shape. Are you giving the new shoes a fair trial?
Can you think of other ways that organizational change is like getting new shoes?