How do you know when the gap is too big to jump?

SnakeRiverCanyonArrowEver watched a motorcycle jump?  Ever wonder how guys like Evel Knievel knew how far they could go? How fast they could make the jump?  How to tune that motorcycle so it would support repeated efforts to break and rebreak records?  Was the cycle the secret to success or was it more a matter of mind over matter, training and instinct?

Many businesses face the same challenges as they try to accelerate the pace of change, embarking on transformation initiatives that often demand that their people bridge frighteningly huge current-to-target state gaps. The price of failure is as catastrophic to a business as those motorcycle jumps are to the daredevils who attempt them.

Is technology the secret to success? Methodology? Only partly so — Objective measures of the size of the gap (a catalog of differences between the current and target states of process, technology, data, and business model) will only get you so far. Project phases can be designed to address this, and the classic stuff of project management can certainly help. I call this the hard science side of the equation.

However, for both the intrepid cyclist and the daring leader of an audacious business transformation, success is both an art and a science.  Just as a jumper has to factor in the strength of crosswinds, the nuances of posture and the internal state of mind, transformation leaders need to address the following questions, which speak to the art of success:

  • Does your organization have a framework in place to foster change (communication, collaboration tools; a training framework)
  • Is there a formal framework for facilitating alignment among stakeholders with different needs?
  • What is the state of employee engagement at your company? Who is burned out, checked out, counting down the clock to retirement? And who is revved up and raring to go?
  • Are there wounded bodies still littering the canyon from your last attempt to jump a big gap?
  • Do you have realistic expectations of the business input required to support a technology-driven transformation? Do you have a backfill strategy?
  • Have you defined success in business terms, or are you just eager to “put in a new system?”

When considering anything unprecedented or record breaking, don’t put all your faith in science—and don’t devalue the many human factors that are very much a part of the art of success.

3 thoughts on “How do you know when the gap is too big to jump?

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