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. More like a week. Indeed, we're remodeling tall ships into speedboats while coursing at high velocity over choppy seas. Some will navigate these waters much better than others.
For managers, there are five things to avoid:
For the rest of the organization, the challenges involve getting used to the speedboat, learning how to handle it and understanding how to maneuver it through the new business environment.
In one of my workshops, "Print to Digital at the Speed of People," I talk about easy vs. hard change:
Although beginning a new job has its challenges, we are presumably open to the fact that it’s new. And different. And that we need to acclimate to this new and different environment.
For a while, we still almost take the exit to the old job; we still recite our old telephone number. After a few times being advised “this is how we do it here” and “Pete’s the one who makes the decisions on that” and “those expenses go in the green envelope for accounting,” we finally settle in, gathering the cloak of culture around us, and become one with our new job. Not all that difficult.
Acclimation to a new and, in the case of the publishing industry, ambiguous, reality in the same old environment is immeasurably more difficult. Consider how tough it is to develop a new habit: Even when we’ve thought long and hard, committed to it personally, written it down as a resolution and shouted it from the rooftops, it is still a challenge to get up and exercise on that particularly dark and chilly morning. Consider how challenging it is to change a simple routine, like brushing your teeth with the other hand. Even if 4 out of 5 dentists recommended it to prevent ugly plaque buildup, we’d be hard-pressed to embrace that as a comfortable change in our routine. And even if we did, we wouldn’t be very good at it for quite a while – if ever.
Every company undergoing significant change would reach their goals faster 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.
So if you are making the leap from tall ship to speed boat, here are some tips for managing the crew:
1. If only a relative few were involved in the decision-making that led to the change in course, remember that the rest of the crew needs to know why this new direction and vessel is such a great idea. What you need: Conviction, empathy and excellent communication skills.
2. As quickly and as thoughtfully and as objectively as possible, assess and select talent for speedboat readiness. What you need: clear direction, clear department roles and responsibilities, and the guts to make really difficult decisions.
3. Have a plan to address pain, process, productivity and performance. And expect it to take awhile.
4. Expect, acknowledge and celebrate progress. You’ve just turned a tall ship into a speed boat. And people have just been pulled through the proverbial knothole. Give yourself and others a pat on the back.
Julie Lynch is principal of Uncommon Consulting, which helps companies drive change, boost productivity and engage employees. Julie's 14 years leading management development and strategic human resources teams at International Data Group, where she is currently Director of IDG’s Global Knowledge Exchange, has fostered an unbridled enthusiasm about the evolution of contemporary media. Reach her at email@example.com.