I love playing games. I’m especially fond of games that require strategic thinking and planning as I try to outsmart my opponents. For me, one example of this type of game is poker.
I love the challenge of trying to read people and situations to make the best decision possible. My mind races with excitement during those key moments when I have to decide how much I am willing to risk to try to win the game. There is a large pile of chips on the table and it is now my turn. I have numerous questions clouding my judgment. What cards are they holding? What will be dealt next? Are they bluffing or do they actually have a strong hand?
In that moment, I find myself having to make a decision without all of the relevant information. This is true of most decisions we face in life. We are attempting to decide which action to take in the moment to create a desired future, but we don’t know everything we would like to about that future.
A few years ago I had the chance to go on a whitewater rafting trip with some friends. Before we were ever allowed in the water, our guide spent a significant amount of time with us discussing safety rules and rafting techniques. He explained what we were to do, when to do it, and why it was important. We practiced responding to commands and ducking into the boat.
He wanted to make sure that when we were in the middle of a large rapid, we would all be on the same page, and respond appropriately.
Organizations face similar challenges every day. How do you ensure that everyone on your team is headed in the same direction? How do you make sure they are prepared to work as a team and respond appropriately when the heat is on.
Several years ago, two independent organizations set off on journeys to transform their cultures. Both organizations wanted to move from environments that valued protecting the status quo and were resistant to change to cultures in which change was rapid, structured, and pervasive.
As both organizations embarked from this common starting point, their paths began to diverge. In one organization, the philosophy began to take root, the tools were used consistently throughout the organization, and the culture continued to mature. Employees at all levels of the organization bought into the new ideas and their teams began to thrive.
In the second organization, changes in the culture were much less widespread. Individual pockets embraced the new ideas, but the results were not sustained. Years after their journey began, the culture was not significantly different from where it started.
So, what was the difference?