Tuesday and I noticed the billboard — either from a gigantic bank or a gigantic consultancy — as we walked through the airport:
GIVE US A WEEK
AND WE’LL CHANGE YOUR ORGANIZATION.
Can you imagine promising that? Worse yet, can you imagine believing it? Perhaps they mean a conversation. Just a starting point. But can a proper starting point even be made — let alone ‘change’ — in seven days?
Change is a delicate business comprised of trick steps, false turns, disorientation, exhilarating adrenalin, mind shifting breakthroughs, and overwhelming momentum. It requires patience and exquisite balance. The gaps between the trick steps and mind shifting breakthroughs can feel like very lonely roads.
But given some time — and a faithful adherence to staying in-relationship and sharing the work — your often at-odds, sometimes weary group will suddenly look down and realize you are standing in a new place. All of sudden, perhaps without even noticing, you realize together that you’ve left the old place behind you, and you’re in strange but interesting, stimulating, and worthwhile new territory. You might feel the sensation of fresh air, and of non-useful baggage having been left behind (where it belongs). You might start measuring little wins that add up to a real shift in the current reality.
Long-game change is not easy, but it’s real. It sticks. It goes noticed by people who needed it. It inspires others to try, too.
Change-in-a-week is a handshake, an elevator pitch. It’s barely a pot of tea. Have we all experienced fateful weeks during which our minds were changed or our inspiration lit? Absolutely. Did it affect anything beyond just us? Nope.
Think of it this way. ‘Change’ designed to fit on a billboard is constrained by the size of a single billboard. We all know that. I’m not sure any of us would see that in the airport and think, “Right on! My organization needs to address child poverty / invent new energy / distribute more food / design the city of tomorrow. I’m going to book a call with ABC Consulting and get it done before next Tuesday!”
Here’s the more important takeaway from that billboard. If we’re smart enough to know we can’t make even minor change happen in a week — short of one individual choosing to adopt a new routine of water, walking, or meditation — we’re smart enough to value all the mess of major change. Say you’ve put your foot through yet another trick step or heard a painful bit of feedback that will cause you to yet-again re-evaluate your assumptions. Congratulations. That’s how you know you’re working towards long-game change. The real kind. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be. Even when it’s uncomfortable. Especially then.
Laugh at the billboards, and stick it out. The fresh air will be worth it.