Published: January 8, 2024

Something happened to me the other day and it made me question just how often it happens in my life and in other’s.

In the process of tidying up the debris at our old home I found myself dismantling a gazebo that we’d been using to store “stuff’ from a barn while we decided what to do with it.

I’m pretty familiar with tents so I pretty quickly got into a routine, which involved gathering up an armful of loose poles and carrying them about 5 metres to where I’d folded the canopy prior to rolling them all up together. As I could only carry a few poles at a time, this involved quite a few trips! I’d almost finished and found myself holding a segment of frame comprising at least a couple of armfuls of poles when I had an ‘ah ha!’ moment. It suddenly occurred to me that it would make a lot more sense to carry that segment the 5 metres and dismantle it there; saving me at least one journey in the process. After calling myself an idiot for not recognising this earlier (it was very hot at the time) I made a not unsurprising jump to my work, which involves supporting organisations and individuals as they transform the way they work.

A few days later I was talking to a client about the restructuring taking place in her organisation and my ‘ah ha!’ moment came to mind. It emerged that, while the organisation’s structure had changed in the minds of the executives whose baby this restructuring had been, the world view of the people working within it hadn’t. So, of course, they were continuing to behave as though the old world still existed, rather than adapting their behaviour to the new one.

As I’d discovered, it’s not always that obvious that the context you’re working in has changed. Unfortunately I had to work it out for myself and, as it turned out, too late to make much difference. In my client’s organisation, however, there were a group of people well placed to speed up the process of realignment. If senior leaders not only communicated that things had changed, but also (and possibly more importantly) worked with people to develop a shared understanding of the new world and what living in it looks, sounds and feels like, the change they envisaged might become a reality much sooner.

I wonder how often and how well this is done as a general rule? Unfortunately, I fear, the answer to that question is a lot less often than it ought.

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