Change Leadership Secret – 93 – Maintain Positive Momentum

Change Leadership — Secret # 93
Maintain Positive Momentum

A word once let out of the cage
cannot be whistled back again.
—Horace (1st century B.C.)

What I Need to Know

One of the most powerful “forces” acting on a change initiative is the force of momentum. Momentum is technically not a force. But it can feel like a force with a life of its own.

Momentum is actually mass times velocity: P =m v

Think about pushing a stalled automobile. It takes a lot of force to get the car moving. But once it is moving, look out. It seems like it has a life of its own. The reason it seems alive is that the moving mass has its own energy (given by the equation, E = ½mv2). So it’s going to keep on moving until something pushes with equal energy to stop it. What does it feel like to get in front of the car and stop it? Difficult—to say the least.

In your role as change agent, you must actuate the change—you have to get the car moving. At first, the change seems impossibly heavy to move. But once it starts moving, every push makes it go faster, until it seems to take on a life of its own. The task then becomes steering and controlling it. These are the processes of change actuation.

The one situation you want to avoid is the momentum going against you. It literally takes twice the energy to turn around the momentum. Not only is it just as hard to push the car forward, but first, you have to stop it from running you over.

To actuate change successfully, you must establish positive momentum, no matter how small, from the very beginning.

What I Need to Do

To make sure you establish positive momentum from the very beginning, wait to start actuating the change until you have lined up the support to power the change and overcome resistance.

During the coalition-building phase, consider keeping a low profile by “floating” “ideas” by stakeholders to determine their willingness to support various change options.

Determine the positive momentum (mass times velocity) that various stakeholders will contribute to the change coalition. The analogy of mass is their influence in the organization. The analogy of velocity is how quickly and forcefully they will support the change.

Calculate the negative momentum the resistors will invest in resisting the change.

Raise your profile and the awareness of the change proposal only after the positive momentum safely exceeds the negative.

Action Summary

  • Maintain a healthy fear and respect of the influence of momentum.
  • Carefully build momentum one stakeholder at a time.
  • Actuate only after positive momentum is assured.
Change Leadership Secret - 93 Maintain Positive Momentum

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