I’m sitting at the auto care place, waiting to get the tires changed on my car, which has me thinking about traction.
For cars, traction is required to start moving, to keep going in the direction you turn your tires, and to make sure the car stops when you apply the brakes – especially when the road is slippery.
In organizations, we talk about gaining traction for projects, ideas and change. The metaphor typically refers to getting the initiative going – no longer standing still, but not quite moving with momentum. Traction means things are starting to happen. Key people are getting on board. Funds are being allocated. Tasks are getting checked off.
I’m no tire expert, but I have an engineering degree so I know a little bit about physics. As far as I can tell, tire tread serves two main functions in increasing traction:
- Increase friction
- Channel away the stuff that reduces friction
When we talk about a project or an idea gaining traction, we typically don’t think about increasing friction; in fact, in organizations we tend to want to reduce friction because we associate it with conflict and “rubbing people the wrong way.” But what if increasing friction was synonymous with gaining traction?
In a status quo organization, the wheels of change are just spinning. Depending on how you look at it, the organization is stuck in place, or it’s continuing on a straight path, without regard for the forces that you are exerting on it. Until you add friction, the change isn’t happening.
So, how might you introduce friction in an organization? I’d love to hear your thoughts.