Like Turning A Ship?

Change is like turning a ship

Most of us have heard or used the expression, “like turning a ship” with reference to change in an organization or bureaucracy. This analogy works with respect to the time it takes to have a ship, that is heading in one direction, turn to another direction and then carry on in that direction. The challenge with this analogy is it implies everyone on the ‘ship’, or in this case, the organization is already moving in the same direction, that they will all turn at the same time when the ship turns, and they will arrive synchronously to continue in the new direction together.

Reality is that this is simply not true. For this analogy to be true, the ship would need to be a 4-dimensional ship. Some parts have already turned and are going in a different direction, some are preparing to turn, some are happy with the current course (the status quo), and some parts and people have not even left the dock yet (or the dry dock for that matter).

Creating strategy around change for organizations has to first ensure you are all on the same ‘ship’, heading in the same direction, with the same plan, and the same destination. It is hard to be an efficient model of strength, speed & mobility when your ‘ship’ is all torn apart, heading in different directions, with some people sometimes unwilling to move at all.

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