Yesterday, I was doing some preliminary thinking about creating an assessment to help clients determine where they are in their change process, and what options they have going forward. One thought I had was that the survey, or at least the analysis, might depend on where the client is on their change journey. And that’s when I remembered about memorylessness.
Every now and then my brain will dig up a factoid that I was taught back as an undergraduate in industrial engineering at Northwestern. It must have been in stochastic modeling class (a fancy way to describe systems that contain variability) in which we learned about the memoryless property of the exponential probability distribution describing the time between events.
Let’s say, for example, that there is a bus stop where the bus arrives on average once per hour (not on a fixed schedule). The memoryless property means that the probability that you will have to wait more than 15 minutes for the bus is the same regardless of how long you have already been waiting at the bus stop. In other words, how long you will be waiting for the next bus does not depend on when the last bus was there. There is no memory of it. I don’t recall the exact day I learned that, but I do remember being rather amazed. (For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorylessness.)
Probability and engineering aside, the concept of memorylessness fits well with the Change Starts Here theme, that you can’t go back and change what has already happened, you can only act in the present and plan for the future. So, that makes me lean toward a one-size-fits-all assessment, regardless of how far the client is into the change program.
Inquiry: In what ways might change be memoryless?