Implementing change is like driving on the long road to Hana

Purple #18- Hana U Turn

© Tweeter Linder 2016 – All rights reserved. Photo by author

With disruptive market changes, it is easy to think change will come as a major turn on the business highway. But while it might be true that market shifts are disruptive, the way businesses execute change is very different. That makes it more like a drive on the long road to Hana on the island of Maui in Hawaii.

The long road to Hana is a short one

Hana is a small town on the eastern cost of Maui, Hawaii, and Hana Highway, the road to Hana, has only limited traffic. Nevertheless it is hard to drive the last 52 miles / 84 kilometers in less than 2.5 hours. The reason is the 620 hard curves on the way (not to mention the one-way bridges). These require the full attention of the driver, as the straightaways in between are very short. Driving the road at night is a tough job even for the most experienced drivers.

Businesses responding to disruptive change                                                                               

The primary conundrum for businesses or individuals responding to change is to start acting before all facts are clear. Taking actions daily means that large changes are always driven by many simultaneous small steps. If you and I, as individuals, aim for small steps daily, we will gradually approach the larger goal. We also minimize the risk of getting too far away from the optimal path.

Continuous actions and corrections are the fuel required to respond to fast moving markets and disruptive changes.

What businesses can learn about change from a drive to Hana 

The first major conundrum is to create a vision for the team about the destination – a vision that creates positive vibrations. Hana is a beautiful place. Spectacular waterfalls. A beach with black sand. And a system of natural pools within lava formations. Start by defining the Hana for your change project.

The second challenge is to give your team a sense of what will be different about the route towards the change. Without saying anything about the road, you can send strong signals when stating three hours will be required to drive 50 miles, even without traffic. These numbers by themselves signal major deviations from normal. Define the two to three numbers that define the nature of your change project.

The third hurdle is to get your team to start executing as quickly as possible. When you start to drive to Hana, you need to concentrate from the start. With the next turn starting before you finish the current one, there is no time to relax. The paradox here is that little effort is required to go straight and fast. But a lot of effort is required to turn often and go slow. A team realizing change initiatives needs to take immediate action to be set up for success. The alternative of continuing straight and waiting for a larger turn down the road is a waste of time. Review your change project and identify how you can drive daily incremental change in small steps. And plan for a very large amount of small steps before you are done.

Questions to frame your change initiative

  1. What is the nature of the change we are adapting our business to – all change programs are unique
  2. What part of the end game can we make our team excited about – No one build or travel the road to Hana if it was not for what you get at the destination
  3. What are our key change metrics that define the road to travel – Numbers tell more precise mission statements than text
  4. How will we define daily and weekly success – each member of team should feel and see their daily and wekly contributions

Inspirational reading

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