Lessons on Change from Tractor Ruts

by | Oct 4, 2020 | Change |

atomic habits

The focus of digital transformation is often on technology, systems, and sometimes a little bit on business processes. We tend to focus on these because they are relatively easy to change.

However, while these are a part of the change, digital transformation and organisational change is about people, not gadgets. People often operate, input, and control the systems and technology. Digital transformation and organisational change is about mindset, behaviours, and capabilities. And all of these are notoriously difficult to change.

Part of the difficult we face is that we expect the change in people to happen at the same rate as changing a gadget. However, it doesn’t work that way. It’s a lot slower and complex. And it requires much more focus.

However, change can happen if we focus on small changes everyday. We can use the 1% rule James Clear talks about in Atomic Habits. But we can also remember the story of the farmer who every morning drove his tractor on the same path one mile to feed his cows. After years of doing this, ruts developed and he didn’t need to steer the tractor because the ruts took him where he needed to go. Trying to change the direction with a hard right turn would be super difficult. However if at the beginning of the drive the farmer could turn the wheel slightly (1%), after one mile he’d be in totally different field.

If we take this approach with ourselves, our teams, our organisation, enormous change can occur. As long as we are focused on ‘holding the wheel’ 1% differently each day.

Photo by Teo Zac


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