I have been reading the excellent book ON THE MEND about ThedaCare’s Lean journey. The authors talk about the importance of having a burning platform to drive change since the clearest way to get someone to jump into the water is to burn the platform.
I started to think about what happens when an organization takes this concept too far and begins to torch the entire field and surrounding buildings. Everybody thinks their platform is the one that should be lit and nobody is controlling the distribution of matches, lighters, or moltov cocktails. Here are some of the results:
- SMOKE FILLS AREA: Direction becomes unclear. People can not see where they are headed.
- PEOPLE BECOME TRAPPED: If all the surroundings are on fire, people can not reach the water to feel a sense of accomplishment. People will become tired trying to fight all the flames and will either melt-down or burn-out.
- THINGS DIE: Even if firefighters quickly dash in to extinguish the blaze, not everything can be saved since the fire covers a lot of ground. People, equipment, and resources such as water become scarce as many people fight the fire across such a wide area. A lot of effort is made but only ash remains.
Organizations need to work at aligning over lighting only a few platforms to get effective change for their performance. Identify your organization’s pyromaniacs to help them not set everything else on fire!
Keep on improving!
Photo is from here.
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6 responses to “Fire At Will!”
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Good point! One of the best books I’ve read in a while is Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. In it he makes a great case for why the burning platform concept can really be a falacy.
Must be ESP. I just posted something on change leadership and then checked out your blog.
Yes, got to watch those pyros. They love to set fires, but usually aren’t that good at then effecting the necessary change…and in the right manner. Too many fires makes it too hard to focus the organization’s scarce resources on the high leverage stuff.
I know that some of the most significant change that I have been involved with had “the Luxury of a Crisis” going for it. The group was convinced, whether it was true or not, that to keep the status quo was not possible.
I agree that this level of urgency is a very powerful weapon, and this must be use judiciously and only by those who understand the impact of what they are doing. Burning the platform should not be done lightly
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