Change Lessons from the Green Hornet
Being a child in the 1960s was great – what I could see of it anyway what with all the second hand smoke and exhaust fumes clouding the air. It was a great upbringing although in retrospect it’s amazing my little friends and I survived. Don’t believe me? Just Google some of my favorite toys like the Creepy Crawlers Thingmaker (an unprotected hotplate), Jarts (giant sharp law darts), and the Mattel Shootin Shell Snub Nose pistol (looked very real and shot plastic bullets – great for knocking down your toy soldiers before melting them in the back yard…)
We loved watching TV and reenacting the shows in our yards – Wild Wild West, Batman, and for a short time The Green Hornet. What was cooler than Bruce Lee as Kato flinging knock-out darts at the bad guys? We decided it would be very cool to stand about 8 ft from the garage and take turns running back and forth as the others threw actual darts at them. “We’ll only come close – we won’t actually hit each other” we declared. When it was my turn to run, I learned that “only coming close” was a promise calling for micro-motor skills and accuracy levels not yet resident in my fellow 8 year olds. The only thing cooler than the dart hanging out of my neck, was the look on my mom’s face when I went home and asked “Can you take this dart out of my neck”? Fast forward to the doctor using phrases like “lucky young man” and telling me that if it had been a quarter of an inch the other way – well – someone else would be writing this column. Neato! Thanks Bruce Lee!
Darts confiscated, Green Hornet watching privileges revoked, and several decades of reflection later – there are a couple interesting lessons in change I learned from that and my subsequent brushes with danger – such as:
Lesson 1: Bifurcation When a large, unexpected or emotionally impactful change happens (think death, layoffs, doctors conveying bad news, sudden accident, etc.) it can alter how you perceive your personal timeline here on Earth. For a while you may perceive your life as it was before and since “the incident” – whatever that may be. Your mind inserts a mental bookmark that splits time. Stay around long enough and you earn a lot of those bookmarks. Perspective matters a lot – we can dwell on how things used to be better “before” or we can focus as positively as possible on what is happening right now and in the future. So what? Those of us involved in architecting process improvement will want to understand that seemingly minor changes to us could be major to those impacted by the process change. Paying respect to the way things were before and helping focus on the current and future positive aspects of the “new way” can help people better frame their own mindsets.
Lesson 2: Settling the Dust Would you agree that when you learned to drive there was a bit of a learning curve? But now, you execute those skills swiftly, competently, and without second thought. The first mental bookmark you got may have taken awhile for you to process as you’d never experienced anything like that before. Not only did you have to grind through whatever your incident was, you had to learn how to get back to a new status quo. Dust needed to settle on that change. Later, after you experienced other changes, you knew more about how to bounce back. Never easy, but maybe a little easier and possibly a faster mental reconciliation. Lesson learned? Before you carpet bomb your organization with new process changes – or even one, maybe stop to consider that there will be a necessary period for the dust to settle on your change. Your organization of workers is not one big blob – it’s many different humans with different experience levels of being able to work their way through a big change. Our job is not to simply roll out a technical process change, but to (more importantly) help escort the humans impacted through an acceptance period leading to hopefully higher outcomes for all.
That said, you’ll have to excuse me as I evidently need to go explain to my wife why my friends are in the back yard with a Bat-Rope and some smoke bombs…