I just drove past a nearby shopping center that has been under reconstruction – getting a face-lift – for what seems like months. Overnight it seemed to become the shell of its new self, looking completely different than the former, run-down building it used to be. Just when I was driving by and thinking “Wow!” it occurred to me that it really is the same building, only it had changed in a significant way. And all the while, the existing tenants had continued to be in business, working every day.
What a great metaphor for organizational change: maintaining the daily activities of the business while altering the system in which the activities get done. I decided to take a closer look. My observations follow. I’ll leave it up to you to draw any analogies to your current change efforts.
When they first started posting signs saying the remodel would come soon, I thought to myself, “Why?” The building had clearly seen better days, and there were many store vacancies. In fact there are only four tenants: a dry cleaner, a nail salon, an antiques store and a deli. The anchor, once a grocery store, was vacant. Wouldn’t it make sense to find those businesses another location and then demolish the building and start from scratch? Today, for the first time, I went into the antiques store and learned why they probably couldn’t move – in a large amount of space they had stuffed an unfathomable number of items, each unique and representing hundreds of dealers. Packing these items and ensuring their safe movement from one location to another while keeping track of whom they belonged to would have been virtually impossible for what is essentially a mom-and-pop operation.
So today there are a number of large signs that say “OPEN FOR BUSINESS DURING REMODEL.” They have steel barricades marking a perimeter 20 feet from the building that is designated as a hard hat area. The specialized workers climb the scaffolding to affix a new exterior to the building. The vacant stores have also received an interior face-lift. So far, the existing businesses have not been remodeled. I will be curious to see how long that lasts.
Inquiry: How might you “remodel” your organization?