Thursday, March 20

Spring Bulbs, Organizational Change, Magic!

Despite the snow piled up outside my door, spring officially begins today.  It seems like an appropriate time to talk about how change occurs in nature—and therefore, in organizations.  Every spring, it seems the spring bulbs I planted back in the fall pop up in bloom almost by magic.  What we don’t see is their quiet, invisible energy building up below the surface until it reaches a critical mass so that when the sun sends the signal that the time is right, those small hard bulbs awaken and use that stored energy to shoot up leave and flowers, almost overnight.
Organizations, composed of living beings, follow the same principles of nature as other living systems.  I am often in awe of how those in an organization, just like tulips and daffodils, can set their intentions on a goal and pour a lot of energy into achieving it.  For what may seem like a long time, there is no visible sign of change, but they remain steadfast in their focus and in building energy toward that goal. And then, one day, it just seems to bloom, as if from nowhere.  One group I worked with recently had this experience in their efforts to make their culture more trusting and cooperative.  Because of the single-minded commitment of their leaders, they continued to practice 3 connective behaviors that the full staff had agreed to adopt.  Then, as they reported, everyone noticed within a few days of one another that they had transformed their culture.  
Change leaders often mistakenly represent incremental change and transformational change as opposites, the first being so 20th century while the latter is the kind of change needed in today’s environment.  They fail to see that all transformations occur through small, incremental steps toward a shared vision—until a tipping point is reached and the transformative change becomes visible.  When you enjoy this spring’s hyacinths, daffs, and tulips, think about the work their bulbs were doing underground throughout the winter so they could pop up and be enjoyed by the winter-weary.  And think about how powerful this same kind of unseen, but consistent, intention can build a critical mass for good in your own organization or in your life. 

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