The Value of a Slow Melt
As we shudder through another painfully cold mid-March day, I wonder what lessons can be extracted from this “winter of our discontent.”
Each taste of spring is followed by a reminder that winter is not yet done with us. The accumulated stress is as real as the accumulated snow, and the never-ending cold has encouraged hibernation and separation.
But, as eager as we are for a rapid warm-up, there is much to be said for a slow melt. A slow melt gives the entire ecosystem time to absorb the change. It prevents the flooding of sewers and basements, and softens the earth to allow the seeds of spring to draw nourishment.
So what does this waxing poetic have to do with our work together?
Many organizational changes occur in response to discontent, and then we are eager for a rapid transformation. But the discontent built up over time and, undoubtedly, has causes and connections that will not be clear until the weather begins to shift.
Likewise, new leaders can be seduced into making rapid changes to take advantage of the fair weather that greets them. But there is only so much change an organization can absorb at one time.
While there will be organizational ice dams to break up and tree limbs to be removed quickly, much strategic work is long term and often more subtle. The structures and patterns accumulated over time are responsible for all of the successes the institution has already achieved. Imposing extensive change too rapidly creates natural resistance and can actually slow progress towards a new vision.
So if you are or work with a new leader, or are implementing a significant organizational change, use the transition period wisely to sow the seeds of a "glorious summer.”