Crisis Response vs Change That Sticks


It's hard to find a smart, sustainable solution to a leaky boat, when you're adrift in the middle of the ocean dealing with the immediate threat of sinking.


John Kotter's enduring research into what makes organisational change sustainable points to the need for a burning platform - a recognisable, compelling reason to change.


This makes sense as our most primitive survival instincts are strong and drive immediate responses to preserve ourselves.


In your leaky boat, you grab the bucket and start shifting water whilst paddling for your life.


Burning platforms like Covid-19 drive strong, dramatic courses of action. They shake off complacency, challenge assumptions and prove what's actually possible.


But crises like this don't automatically promote long-lasting shifts. The don't help us take the good out of being forced to make massive scary changes to how we do things.


We want innovative, new ways of working that stick. These will be the things we choose to do that will take our organisations towards a prosperous and effective future. So if this is the goal, we need to excite people, not scare them. 


Replacing recent (and current) fear with the vision of an attractive, exciting future should be a priority for leaders now; thinking about how best to lay foundations for 'the new normal', tell the story and help people see what our working lives will be like for us from now on.


In short, we shouldn't just patch up the hole in our boat.


We should think dramatically differently about the way we build boats.