What we can learn from a giraffe about dealing with change

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 02-23-12

For a Friday humor, here is a giraffe stuck in quicksand. A client is using this video to help introduce what people go through when dealing with change, through the classic stages of grief.

Of course, there’s also a lesson here. Management, and leaders at all levels, sometimes forget that they went through this, and other people need to as well. Excuse the geeky reference (I am who I am), but in Star Wars, Luke Skywalker ridicules Han Solo for not believing in “the force.” But Luke himself only first heard of the force recently. Is that really fair?

Lean journeys aren’t much different. Once a light bulb comes on for us, are we intolerant of everyone else that hasn’t reached that point yet? Here’s how those stages of grief might look in a lean journey.

  • Denial: “We don’t need to change, everything is fine.”
  • Anger: “This lean stuff has to go.”
  • Bargaining: “OK, I’ll come to your kaizen event, but don’t expect me to talk.”
  • Depression: “Will this ever end? I can’t take it.”
  • Acceptance: “I guess lean is here to stay.”

Of course, these are the stages of grief. But for lean, we have to go beyond acceptance to commitment and conviction. But people don’t turn on a dime. That’s why some of the leadership traits required to make lean work are persistence and patience.

It brings us to what I call relentless patience. Relentless patience is patience about people arriving at the destination, having the light bulb turn on, but relentlessness about them being on the path. We do whatever we have to get them moving, but if they don’t finish the journey quickly, that’s OK and even likely.

For more on getting buy-in, check out my most recent IndustryWeek column Securing the Elusive Lean Buy-In.

Reflection question: How do you deal with those still getting on board?