Tall Ships and Speedboats

My brother-in-law, Jim, was a deck hand on the “HMS” Rose. The guy in this picture is not Jim but it does give you a look at what Jim did when he was “aloft in the rigging”.

Anyone who has experienced a parade of the tall ships can see how strikingly beautiful these vessels are.  Not just for the gorgeous complexity of the rigging, shrouds and gaskets or the plethora of sails in their salty antiqued hue, but also for the elegance of the crew – harkening back to the focused and elaborately coordinated performance to set and stay a course, outwit the sea and make it back alive when tasked with defending our coasts in the 18th century.

Here’s what the coast guard uses today to defend our waters.

Organizations today are facing a similar transformation except of course we don’t have a century or two.  We’ve got like a week.  Indeed, we’re remodeling tall ships into speedboats while coursing at high velocity over choppy seas and some will do it much much better than others.

Things to avoid:
1. Hanging on to the tall ship.
2. Not telling (all of) your crew that the tall ship is going away
3. Incorporating nostalgic tall ship characteristics into the speedboat
4. Assuming your tall ship crew cannot drive a speedboat
5. Assuming your tall ship crew can drive a speedboat

Half the battle is avoiding these things.  The other half is about your organization (aka: people) getting used to the speedboat, learning how to handle it and understanding how to maneuver it through the new business environment.  So let’s assume you avoided our five items up above and you: let go of the tall ship, communicated thoroughly from top to bottom about the new direction and vessel, were brave and resisted the temptation to incorporate the familiar for the sake of the familiar, and objectively evaluated your staff for speedboat readiness.

Now comes the hard(er) part.  In order to engage your organization in the achievement of these new goals they must literally get out of their own way.  According to recent brain research, neuropsychologically, human beings cannot change, grow or learn if they are in a state of alert.  And what greater state of alert could there be for an employee than the perceived threat to their livelihood (will I get laid off?), their employability (do I have the skills for this new role?), their self-esteem (I expected to lead my department). 

Every company undergoing significant change would reach their goals faster, get the right people on board more quickly and avoid unnecessary expense if they explicitly addressed this “human” issue up front so they could move on to the implementation of all that good strategic work that went into deciding to build the speedboat in the first place.

My next post will give you some ideas for tackling that part.

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