When Change Becomes a Game of Topple

You know what game I’m talking about, right?  The one with the platform on a stand where you need to stack pieces up on different levels ranging from inside (close to the stand) to the outside (away from the middle stand).  Each time that a piece is put on the platform, it becomes more and more unsteady.  The goal is to figure out how to balance all of the pieces until… TOPPLE… everything crashes down.

topple2I’m an observer and an analyzer.  As I’ve consulted in the past and as I lead my current teams, I’ve loved watching for patterns and discovering how teams and individuals adapt every time they encounter a change.  Here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • Large or small, each change requires people to make similar adjustments emotionally.  So a small change always FEELS much larger than it really is.
  • A large change, planned out in advance, FEELS smaller than it really is.
  • Any size, last-minute change feels HUGE.

I like to think of it like that game of Topple.

  • Each change requires you to put a piece on the Topple platform.
  • The more advance warning about the change, the closer you put the pieces to the center of the platform so that it’s easier to “balance” everything.
  • Quick and large changes are placed on the outer edge of the platform, requiring adjustments to be made or it will tilt too far in one direction.
  • Each time that the pieces topple over (a team member gets too frustrated, overloaded or even quits), it takes time to stop the game, pick up the pieces, and start all over again.

How can a TOPPLE on your team be prevented?  Be proactive!

1) Slow down.  Is the change necessary?  Have a filter in place to determine if the size and timing of the change will actually be helpful or detrimental.  “All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” -Ellen Glasgow

2) Communicate change as far in advance as possible.  That way, when unplanned but necessary change happens, it’s easier to adjust without throwing everything overboard.

3) Put systems in place to facilitate the flow of communication.  How will your team find out about a change as soon as it happens?  How will they give you feedback before, during, and after the change is implemented?

Change is a good thing and it’s absolutely necessary, but change needs to be managed effectively in order for it to make an impact.  The right amount of change at the right time can propel your team forward toward even bigger goals and dreams, instead of requiring them to scramble in order to keep up.

What have you found to be helpful in managing change?  Do you have a “communication system” in place when it comes to change?





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