By Lou Thurmon
I recently entered the world of weekend-fishing warriors during a side ethnographic project. The business parallel between the strategy behind the fisherman's lure selection and an organizations approach to effectively initiate change became immediately evident. My intrigue hovered around the success factor of each situation, catching a fish or initiating internal change, as both are heavily contingent upon minimal disruption of the senses.
What disrupts your senses? Change in the environment. How can you create a change with as little disruption as possible?
It's quite simple really. I'll borrow an example from a recent article by professional fisherman, Rick Clunn. He breaks down the importance of understanding water displacement.
Yes, you know, water displacement -- the concept you learned in fifth-grade science class when you placed objects into a tank and measured the difference in the water level based on the objects variance of weight and aqua-dynamics. Simply put, anything that moves through water pushes it out of the way. When a change moves through an organization people, processes, physical equipment/software, messaging and, lets not forget, emotions are pushed out from their original locations, creating displacement.
Before a fisherman selects his lure he selects his place to fish. Where must he go to reach his game? Clear, smooth water; rapid, murky water; deep, dark water? Before you create your organizations change strategy you must first have a solid grasp on the organization's position in its business waters and where it must go to reach its goals? Is your organization surging ahead of the competition or is it at a breaking point and in need of change to avoid a flat line on the growth chart? Is your external brand being damaged because your internal stakeholders are not engaged?
Whatever your scenario, you must know your water before you cast your lure. Keys to identifying your business waters is a totally different article, but I'll give you a hint: a deep understanding through enthnographic research brings upon the greatest insights for competitive-business strategies. With that said, I must continue on with my water displacement parallel to organizational change.
In order to master water displacement you must select the most appropriate lure for your water type. If you are charged with implementing a change in a business setting then think of lure selection through the parallel of creating a strategic plan of action and measurable tactics that will be the most appropriate for your organizational culture and goals. I placed an emphasis on "your" because it is easy for organizations to implement strategies from outside influencers with the misconception that their company will achieve the same success as the one they mimicked their approach from.
Humans are similar to fish in their ability to detect change in an environment and to determine if that change is peaceful or threatening. With fish this sense is called the lateral line, which is used to detect water movement. This sense is so accurate that it can detect the distance of a moving object, how fast the object is moving and it's size and shape. Lateral line is what gives fish an advantage in hunting prey or escaping predators in dark waters, when they can not rely on other senses for protection. Recognizing and understanding the power of lateral line is the key to initiating successful change (or, as noted, selecting a solid fishing lure).
Aligning your organization through change is one of the most difficult business initiatives to undertake; though it can be done. Design of change management strategies based on insights from behavioral science investigation is an offensive tool to reduce uncertainties and inform a strategy. But before you can implement any strategic plan you must first understand how the concept of displacement and the power of the lateral line can play to or destroy your organizations ability to successfully initiate change.
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Lou Thurmon is senior VP of Human Potential at Two West, Inc. As a certified Change Management practitioner with a focus on brand awareness, acceptance and engagement, Lou applies a decade of experience to the transformation process.