I am sure most of you will remember the moment in the movie “Titanic” when someone asks ” Why doesn’t she turn?”. It happens after they discovered that they were steaming right into an iceberg and tried to pull over.
Why did she not turn?
The iceberg was spotted, the captain had given the order to turn, the guys in the machine room had made their adjustments, the first officer had turned the steering wheel.
So why did she not turn?
In the company I work for I saw this question asked many times. The CEO and board of directors had spotted the problem (loss of marked share, diminishing profits, unexpected changes in the business landscape, or whatever can go wrong with a company). They had ordered to change course, they had moved a lot of senior managers from one place in the organization to another. They had published some new company charter. But still was the company heading straight ahead. No quick turn left or right. Just keeping the old ways of doing things.
How can you expect a speeding 46,000-tons Titanic to quickly change its direction by simply changing the position of its mere 500 kilos of rudder?
How can you expect a speeding thousands-of-employees enterprise to swiftly change course by making a mere handful of senior managers switching chairs?
As long as the multitude of employees just keep doing what they have been doing for years, the same way they have been doing it, nothing will change significantly.
And still, there always are some people who would love to change (all day long, they sing : “My heart will go on” :-). There also are a whole lot of people who would accept to change. There even are some people who would go along with the change when all the others do it. But then there is this huge bulk of inertia. People who will not or cannot change no matter what. As long as you keep this inert mass aboard, the Titanic will keep it’s momentum in the direction where it was going before and nothing will change significantly. Not fast enough in any case.
So get rid of the inertia. Build a lighter boat with the changers and then you will be able to take that quick turn to avoid the iceberg.
Perhaps you will even be able to change the course of the iceberg itself…