September 25, 2017
Detours and Dead Ends
My former neighborhood is at the edge of a four-lane city road, a one-way street heading west that is a major feeder directly into downtown. I remember once when the road was closed for construction and drivers were detoured to the south.
At the next available intersection where you could turn to head downtown, drivers found the road also closed and they were detoured further to the south.
And at this next intersection you would find yourself dead-ended, unable to head straight any further, and forced to turn on to a one-way road heading east ... out of the city.
So hundreds of cars daily that want to go west are detoured multiple times to a road where they can only go east. No signage directs you to another westbound road: just generic detour signs and traffic cones blocking your path.
If this isn't a metaphor for bad organizational change efforts, I don't know what is.
People have a path they have learned over time that gets them to where they need to go, that gets their work accomplished. Change is introduced, the path is closed, and individuals are asked to take a detour. Insufficient direction is given, workarounds are also closed off, and ultimately they have to go backwards in order to get to where they want to go and they're unsure how long it will take to get there.
When you're trying to bring about change, make sure the detour you force others to take doesn't end up being a dead end.