A colleague shared an analogy about change that seems appropriate for this first day of August. Think about when you were a kid and you spent some time in a neighborhood pool. One of the first things you would do would be to walk around the edges – all in the same direction – trying to create a whirlpool effect. It was hard work at first, but then you gained momentum, and eventually, the current would just allow you to float along in it.
New people automatically joined in the flow as they would have had a hard time stopping it. Sometimes you slipped up when trying to create the momentum, but you just got back in the circle and tried again. The same was true when someone bumped into you as they tried to go at a different speed. You made amends and pressed on.
Creating a whirlpool in the swimming pool is a lot like creating change in an organization. In the book Good to Great, author Jim Collins describes it as a flywheel – that the first turn is quite difficult, but with enough turns in the same direction, it creates powerful momentum that it is difficult to stop. The problem comes in when people give up too easily and try to go on their own path because making one collective motion is challenging.
If you are trying to create a culture change or alter your organization’s trajectory, think about being a kid in the pool. One loop around the pool does nothing, but by the end, you’ve got some serious force at play in your favor.