The other day I was a passenger in a car with someone who had one foot on the gas and the other on the brake. They were very tentative about every move they were making, never going too fast, never really stopping but it certainly made me uncomfortable to be a passenger. I kept asking myself what he was trying to accomplish. Is he progressing or is he staying put? Does he realize he is causing the vehicle to operate inefficiently and increase his fuel consumption as well as the wear on his brakes? Does he know that the passengers are uncomfortable with the way he is driving? This made me think about change and how organizations deal with it or, in some cases drive with both feet. Every organization needs to identify their threats, whether internal or external and find ways to overcome them. They also need to make sure their stakeholders know what is happening along the way.
Achieving change is a process, one in which there are leaders, a plan and a timetable. In that vehicle, as a passenger, I had no idea what was happening, where we were going, how we were getting there and when we would arrive.
In dealing with threats, many organizations retrench and focus only on what they know how to do—they are hitting the brakes. Others will forge ahead, embracing change and trying to stay relevant—they have their foot on the accelerator. The ones who develop disruptive approaches have their foot on the gas at full throttle, or they may be using an entirely different mode of transportation.
Our driver was the leader of our organization and he was so tentative about the road conditions and the environment around him that he had no plan. He was ill-prepared to be the leader and because he telegraphed it so openly the passengers became agitated, complaining about his leadership skills making him even less effective because his attentions were divided.
Had he communicated with us about the slick roadway making him concerned for our safety we would have behaved differently. Had he said he was uncertain of the directions and asked for help navigating we would have helped. Our leader failed to communicate to the stakeholders about his intentions and therefore we could not help him achieve the change his organization needed to succeed.
Don’t drive with both feet.