On a rainy summer day in Arlington, I had coffee with CK, a technology futurist who was a friend of one of my mentors. During a broad conversation, she excitedly exclaimed – “Everything is going to get faster and faster! Everyone needs to get comfortable with everything changing quickly!” Change or die! And better do it quick!
I got uncomfortable.
I’ve seen way too much change overload in the organizations I work in – where so much is changing at once that people just tune out.
More. Faster. Oh yeah – and keep all of the legacy stuff….
Few seem to have the patience to set one direction and march that way long enough so that they can see results.
I’ve seen too much change all at once result in what I fondly call “The Rubber Band Effect.”
Like excitedly going strict Paleo and binging on candy bars and beer three days after you start.
Organizations do the same thing.
I started thinking that maybe the way we talk about and approach “Change” is doing us a disservice.
Andy Jordan, in his article Changing Work, Changing Needs, notes
It’s very easy to forget that strategic changes to how work is done have very personal impacts…
The personal impact is the stress of having no foundation, no certainty, no direction.
The personal impact is the loss of hard-earned mastery and status.
The personal impact is the inability to see how one can be “successful.”
The foundations we have built over the years are crumbling beneath us.
Furthermore, we do not seem to have the time or space to rebuild new foundations.
Add the emphasis on speed, and you wind up with a bunch of whirling dervishes dancing on quicksand.
After that coffee with CK, I thought that maybe there was a different way to approach the conversation around change.
At first, I wanted to eliminate any notion of “faster” from the conversation.
I didn’t see how “Faster! More!” helped anyone.
All I saw was colleagues opting out of their careers while in their prime. They either opted out by “retiring” or disengaging in place.
The folks that didn’t entirely disconnect were anxious (on a good day) and burned out.
I can think of very few organizational leaders that want to cultivate an anxious and burnt out workforce.
But that focus on “Change! Faster!” and the seeming abdication of vision-setting that has occurred among the “leadership” of many organizations has done just that.
And they wonder why nothing gets done and the front-line is cynical and untrusting.
A week ago, in Piedmont Virginia with the Greenermind East crew, I asked whether we could get “faster” out of the change conversation altogether.
Maybe we could find ways to better align with nature when we think about change.
Nature works at different paces. The flight of birds. The drift of clouds. The change of seasons. The growth of a tree. The formation and erosion of hills. These things only go as “fast” as they are supposed to go.
“Wendy, one of the defining hallmarks of humans is that we want to change our environment so that we are more comfortable and don’t have to work so hard.”
The history of technology is a history of people figuring out how to do things easier….and faster.
I then realized that, throughout history, once people figure out how to do something easier and faster, they replace the gap in activity created by the new invention with another activity – NOT more leisure.
Even with the desire to create more “time-savings,” things will still happen at their appropriate speed. That speed is often “slower” than many would like and you can’t force them to go faster.
Culture change comes to mind. Habit development is another.
Maybe there is a better way to think about change.
Maybe there is a way to more naturally accommodate the time it takes for manifestation, mastery, and mindset adjustment.
Maybe there is a model we can use to stabilize the foundations again.