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Carpe Diem

History Made

It has been an historic week for us here in the States and I am hopeful, like many, that we are taking a positive step forward. While watching a cable news channel the day after the election the story was focused on the transition and need for speed – act while there is an atmosphere of acceptance and good will. In other words, Washington D.C. is maleable for the moment and carpe diem is the best advice.

This all brings back to mind my ’68 Mustang. My brother sold it to me for $50 and I was thrilled with the idea of the freedom my first car provided to me. Of course the 289 horses in such a small frame made for additional thrill. But that special car has nothing to do with our recent election. It was the rust on that Mustang, and more specifically the work that I performed to replace that rust, which is the point of this posting.

For those of you who have done a little body work this will make a lot of sense. The stuff one uses to make a fender whole and smooth again, Bondo, is an interesting chemical compound. You take a big glop out of the can and you mix it with a little squeeze of paste out of a tube and then for about 20 minutes you have this wonderful substance that can be formed into any shape, curve or contour. It can match the flare of a wheel well or the convex recession of a door. And then, like magic, it hardens and becomes one with the car. A little excess can be sanded, then painted and the rust is gone and the old beat up car transforms into a new sleek silver art piece on wheels.

Our President Elect likewise has virtually 20 minutes of pliability before things harden on Capitol Hill and become much more difficult to form into the shape we need to get back on track. I hope he can act swiftly.

We all face this within our companies from time to time. For different reasons we undertake big changes. Sometimes they are thrust upon us – reorganizations that will be caused by this unfolding recession, acquisitions that demand realignment of resources; and sometimes we choose to take changes on proactively – moving into new markets with new products and services, updating technical systems to modernize the workforce.

No matter the reason, once we start the change process, typically with the expenditure of a huge amount of organizational energy, there is a period of pliability. The organizational Bondo is in a stage of acceptance that is far easier to form into the desired shape at that time than it will be later once the dust settles.

Often I am told by my clients when I propose a secondary change that they would prefer to take on the additional effort once that proverbial dust has settled. Under many circumstances this postponement is a mistake. Again, carpe diem is the better answer. It is an issue of the economy of scale of organizational change. If your employees are going to muscle through a change in technology and process, a little bit of structure or policy change on top of it is going to be nothing. In fact, if the additional changes are related, it is probably best to have them be combined.

Sometimes the counter argument is to doll out a little change over a sustained set of periods – an attempt at the boiled frog syndrome. I don’t buy this rationale because all it does is prolong the stress to the organization. People get exhausted and the performance of the organization suffers.

No, this whole organizational Bondo thing is very real. Act while you are in the pliability period. It is easier to change the organization when it is in a state of change readiness. Once it goes back to the more rigid and natural state, change is harder, more stressful and less likely.

No, are you thinking about your first car?

68 Mustang in Flux

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