Tidal Forces

I stand at the end of Pier 7, a long pedestrian walkway stretching into San Francisco Bay. Fishermen and tourists are my companions as I stare out into the bay, deep in thought. I have much on my mind after meeting with a friend to discuss job possibilities. Organizations now talk of “Change Management” and much of the work today for Organizational Development consulting involves change management initiatives. I am excited knowing my experience, skill set, and being are right for Change Management work.

It is a beautiful sunny day with a light breeze as I stand at the end of the pier. I get the feeling that I need to be right here, right now and a lesson is available if I can only discover it. I study the waters of the bay and indeed a memory appears, linking my past learning to my present need. As I think about next steps for my career, I am drawn deeper into the water. All appears calm, but I know the truth … tidal forces are strong in these waters.

I fall deeper into memory and I am back to the days when I rowed on these waters right past this very pier. We planned each journey by reading a well-worn tide book with charts of high and low tides. Timing was important as to row against a strong tide was challenging and progress was near impossible. As one of the strongest tides in the world, the tidal waters could move faster than we can row. At other times we flowed with the tide and we moved with ease and speed.

I come back to the present and think about organizational change. Indeed tidal forces are at play on the water and can seem just as real in the workplace. I am deep into metaphor with talk of water tidal forces and organizational change. Yet, it works for me and I will use this metaphor with clients.  So often … most often, we find ourselves standing at work with “tidal forces” either pulling or pushing us. Yet, we do not feel the movement for we are one with the flowing water. Only by stepping back, onto the pier, do we gain perspective of our place within the change process.

Change management is not about lining up everyone to row harder in a straight line to our goal. We need to recognize fully all forces that can hinder our path. These “tidal forces” typically do not allow a straight line implementation of change management. We learn to recognize when we are up against a strong tide and alter our path. We also recognize when we have tidal forces at our back and we can move quickly. Ever though we move forward.

I am standing on the pier still in metaphor waiting to find a crew and an oar. I await my personal change ahead that without doubt involves working on change management in my new organization or with new clients. No worries, I will find my well-worn tide book and keep it in my back pocket, ever ready for a good row.

“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.” – Isaac Asimov

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