The HeadScratcher Post Archive
January 2010
Turning on a Dime (The Physics of Changing Quickly)
   
       January 2010  The Headscratcher Post © Headscratchers LLC   Edition 57
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Turning on a Dime (The Physics of Changing Quickly)

You’re driving on an icy road and you decide to make a quick turn or change in direction or lane what happens?  Your car wants to go straight, it has momentum in that direction, so when you make a quick turn, your front wheels point in one direction, but your car goes in another you skid.  To avoid a skid you slow down, which decreases your momentum, and allows the front wheels to guide your direction.

Business has momentum too.   If you implement a significant change in process or policy or product, what happens?   People complain, they lose productivity, mistakes are made, and sometimes the old way continues to be used.   One way companies avoid this “skid”, like driving on an icy road, is to roll out changes slowly, although not always the ideal method.

What if you want (or need) to change quickly.  Your world can’t always wait for a slow change.   There are events that occur that sometimes require a quick change in direction, strategy, process, etc.  How do you do this and avoid “skidding”?  Think about the ice.  Your front wheels lead the way, but the rest of the car doesn’t follow.  Imagine if you had something that pushed the rear end of the car around in the direction you wish to turn.  The back end of the car would turn in the direction of the front wheels because there is a force applied to it.   Also, imagine if the original direction became a banked incline.  Your car would bank around to the new direction.   So how does this translate to business?

Augment Leadership (your front wheels), with help from the rear.  This can be accomplished in a number of ways.
1.  Recruit some of the rank and file mind leaders.  These are the individuals who have significant influence in an organization, not by rank, but by reputation and respect.  Win them over and they help push the rest of the organization in a new direction.
2. Train your people in the new way.  Make the new way easier to learn.
3. Slightly increase the friction of the old way.  If your throw sand on the road, you won’t skid. However if you put rocks on the road, you’ll probably destroy your car.   Don’t turn off the old system, but just make it less convenient to use (or make the new system more convenient).

Bank (like a race track) your turn (change).  A race car can make a very fast change in direction because the track is banked.   In business you can do this by creating a transition plan that converts the old to the new for the employee, or customer.  A path they can follow that automatically helps them transition from old methods to new, old technology to new, old terminology to new, and without having to spend too much time thinking about it.  One way to do this is learning by example, such as: let them enter data the old way, then automatically translate the data and show them how it would be entered the new way.  Show them the new way by using real examples of their work while contrasting the old and new methods.

The Takeaway:  Business, like everything else in the world, is subject to the laws of nature, i.e. physics.  Change in business is therefore subject to momentum and friction, just like turning a car.  Leadership is the first step (the front wheels), but a fast change in direction requires more a push from the rear and a curved banked road ahead.   Implement these two things and you can TURN ON A DIME !

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