Friday, October 14, 2011

How to Move an Elephant

In a leadership class, we use the analogy of moving an elephant from here to there. Here is the current, stagnant, complacent situation. There is the energized, alive, visionary destination. Here is where people are comfortable. They're used to the situation. A lot of energy actually is expended to maintain the elephant here; it takes a lot to feed and clean the elephant. People probably don't even realize that a change is necessary. People may not even want to contemplate change because there's no energy left to think about change.

As leaders, we know that "there" is where success is. We also know that if we try to move the elephant in the wrong way, we won't be successful. At worst, we'll get sat on, crapped on or swatted. Just try taking away a sacred tradition or entitlement of some sort (e.g. summer company picnic, Christmas bonus) and the elephant will rear up and stomp you into the ground.

We talk about the way to move the elephant is through Information, Emotion and a Pathway.

Emotion almost always needs to start first. It's based on Who we are: our beliefs and values. Emotional ownership can be gained through explaining the Why:  the purpose for our organization's existence. If we can hook into those ideas and describe "there" in terms of Who we are, then we've won half the battle.

More Information will be related to What we're trying to accomplish: our mission.

More information and a Pathway would be related to How we're going to get there: strategies.

We should even set some goals or targets describing When and Where we want to be at points along the journey.

Emotion is the Who and Why. Information is the What. Pathway is the How, When and Where. Oh, and there's one more thing. Elephants sometimes want to move backwards to feel comfortable again. Therefore, it's important to build a wall behind the elephant or knock out the road behind the elephant to reinforce the new changes. This will occur with policy and procedure changes, reorganization to focus resources in the right areas and key investments of capital and other resources. Once the elephant gets used to moving, it'll keep moving. Adopting change in an organization leads to an openness and acceptance of future changes. Pretty soon, the elephant is looking for a new "there".

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