Sitting on my grandmother knees, she would look me in the eyes and hold my hands. Then her legs would start moving, “Wanna go for a ride?” she would say with a twinkle in her eye. “Bumpity road, bumpity road…. curvy road, curvy road…” and then her legs would spread open as she said “HOLE in the road!” I would squeal with glee.
Often the consultants will give you a beautiful powerpoint, complete with a clear map, outlining the path of change. It looks good and clear. However, organisational change is much more like the trip on my grandmother’s lap than the consultant’s map. There are bumps along the way, many curves, and quite a few potholes. And yes, there are moments of glee too, but they are rarely related to falling in a pothole.
Bill Gates, Tony Robbins, and many others often say
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
This is true of organisational change and personal change. We do the analysis, make good plans, heck, we even use good frameworks like this one, but we still hit bumps, curves, and potholes. We often can’t see them from afar (if we did, we’d avoid them), but we have a choice – do we think they exist or think the road will be smooth?
We can choose to expect them. And when we do we can plan how to respond, so we are prepared. Pre-Mortems can be helpful in this process. And when we expect something, we tend to look for it and recognise it in the distance. This allows us to anticipate, adjust our course, and sometimes avoid it.
It’s often our assumption of a smooth road causing us to overestimate what can be accomplished in year one. The bumps, curves, and potholes along the way slow us down. But when we stick with it and learn about the setbacks, as we anticipate them, respond to them, the ratchet turns and we improve and improve and improve causing us to achieve much more in 10 years than we thought possible.
I miss my grandma, but carry on her tradition with my kids and am grateful for all she taught me about life and change.