You’ve heard the saying never waste a good crisis, you have also probably heard that you don’t know how ingrained your culture is until you try to change it. What if you took both of those insights and put it in a Vitamix on level 10 and let it fly, the results just might surprise you! Naysayers, curmudgeons, enthusiasts, optimists, believers, visionaries, and the mostly angry all have one thing in common when the organization is going through a major event that causes crisis and culture change to intersect, they all just want to get through it.
Two weeks before a major event, there are some who will absolutely not budge on a position, they are ready to die on the hill to protect what they might define as their territory. However, during the crisis, they are easily swayed and seemingly slide off the hill when the greater needs of the organization are jeopardized over their last stand. There is a lot of persuasive power when managing through a crisis in the middle of major change. Decisions that would sometimes take an organization weeks or months to make are made within minutes. The peculiar thing is that when you are motivated by crisis, you seem to gather the necessary information much quicker than one might normally do. There is no time for hour long meetings during a crisis; meetings are short, direct, and goal oriented. Calendars and schedules melt together as teams assemble quickly to assess situations. Lines of authority are darkened, deepened, and rarely crossed or challenged during crisis and fast paced change. People in charge know they are in charge and the good ones thrive in these situations.
Trying to change an electronic medical records system in a hospital is a monumental task that takes years to plan, millions of dollars to invest, and hundreds of people to pull it off. No matter how much careful planning is done, go live day, as it is called, merges crisis with change. The risk is very high, literally peoples lives are on the line. The tension is palpable, you can physically feel it. Stress is extreme and sleep is fleeting. At this intersection point of crisis and change, an organizations guts and fortitude are tested in a way that cannot be duplicated. There is no other time, probably other than wartime, when the simplistic mission of the organization is on the hearts and minds of every staff member. While this environment is not sustainable over a long period of time, there are components of this short season that can be leveraged during normal operating conditions. Great leaders will seize this momentum and start to change meetings habits, learn to pull the important information quickly, and find a way to keep the mission the most important thing. Culture change doesn’t have to be this dramatic, but there are benefits. Once the pain subsides, a new system is born and a new opportunity to redefine how the organization will once again change the world, even if it is only your world.