I was recently faced with a significant transition with one of my clients – seismic shifts in leadership. What’s interesting about these types of changes is how often it reveals the very limited institutional memory that exists in organizations – you might have been working on the client for a decade, with a singular long-term focus and evidence all around you of the work flowing from that perspective. New leadership comes in and in a way they are blind to the past – which is fundamentally their role – transformation and change. It’s strange to watch though as the new people struggle with issues that you resolved a long time ago, and put in place procedures and schedules that they create from scratch which coincidentally mirror the ones that you have used for years.
I’m not sure why this is – as humans I think we live mostly in the present – what do I need to do now? What step should I take next? What can I see from my chair? – Our perspective is limited. Our view of time also.
In this latest transition I put aside my usual reservations about transition – I am typically suspect of these change for changes sake type of moments – and instead embraced what I know about the limited memory of organizations. I approached my first meeting with the new leadership as if they were a brand new client – one where there was no previous history for me or them. Doing so made it so much better – I came in with the enthusiasm for new ideas that I typically feel with a brand new client – and it worked. We all left feeling like there was a lot of possibility ahead.
It’s interesting when you really examine the circumstances of reality – and shift your attitude to match your experience. I’m bookmarking this experience for next time, and the time after that.