Fast forward to the present. I desperately needed a new computer. My old computer was unreliable. It crashed, slowed down, was unresponsive at various times. Last week, I got a new computer. Which meant I had to change/upgrade many of my applications.
I changed many of my “compilers.” Luckily, the products I use now are much more stable than the compilers of long ago.
But, that experience got me thinking: how often do we change our environments in the middle of a project?
We change our environments all the time in our lives. We tend to want to limit changes in our projects because these changes can disrupt everything.
When is a good time to change your environment?
- When things don’t work, as in the case of my computer.
- When we have an emergency/crisis, as in the case of COVID-19.
- When the culture doesn’t work, as we’re seeing now.
We can change the wings on the airplane as we fly it. We can try to change safely. And, sometimes, we make the leap. When should we use each approach?
Let’s consider when we might change our environment.
When You Have Some Time to Experiment
For computers and software—and many projects—I prefer to experiment my way to success. Sometimes, I learn early that this thing won’t work. The more I experiment, the more likely I am to learn something. (See How Do You Build Your Adaptability? for the hypothesis/learning loop.)
In terms of the Change model, I can do this when I first encounter the Foreign Element. I might be in Chaos, and, I might have some time to discover the Transforming Idea.
We can even do this in some emergencies/crises. For example, with COVID-19, we had some time to build some experimentation into how we created offices at home. We might have felt the pressure. The reality is we had time.
I put up with my old computer for too long because I thought I had some time. I did have time—and I definitely waited too long.
And, when we think we don’t have time to experiment? Then, it’s time to change now.
We Think We Don’t Have Time to Experiment
We might not have time for long experiments. And, for crises such as COVID-19 and the deaths of black people at the hands of the police, we can put some changes in place immediately. (Many of us have lived with lockdowns, and some cities/police departments changed some policies immediately.) I think of these changes as “use a couple of transforming ideas to buy us time to learn what we need to do for real.”
The several reactive changes offer us breathing room to experiment with our next actions. And, to gather allies to make those changes.
That’s how we make long-term, cultural change. Read Esther Derby’s book, 7 Rules for Positive, Productive Change: Micro Shifts, Macro Results to understand this and more.
We always have time to breathe, once we address the immediate emergency. We probably have time to take a breath even before we address the immediate crisis. (See Boyd’s OODA loop to see all the Orient positions.)
That, dear adaptable readers, is the question this week: When should we change our environment?
- Where Do We Choose to Spend Our Time?
- How Do We Operate When We Can’t See the Finish Line?