Boiling the frog: a study in subtle change

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It’s a terrible analogy, but it’s honestly the first one that came to mind as I thought about what a successful quiet (aka “soft”) implementation is like. The frog sits in the water-filled beaker, blissfully unaware that the temperature is being raised, until it’s too late, the water has boiled and the frog is…dead. Yep, worst analogy ever.

But the beauty of the analogy lies in the method, not the result: the change in water temperature was so subtle that the frog never noticed, yet the change from beginning state to ending state was incredibly significant. The frog might agree.

I’m reminded of a quote from Cicero I recently sent to my team: “The pursuit, even of the best things, ought to be calm and tranquil.” As my organization goes through significant change—with all the announcements, plans, deadlines, angst, and frustration that goes with it—the idea of a quiet (I like tranquil) implementation sounds both beautiful and impossible. But is it? Ever the skeptic and experimenter, I’d like to test that idea.

A little while back I wrote a post about making changes swiftly and decisively. (Pick the change, believe in it, implement it). I also want to do it with as little promotion as possible. No expansive plans and promises, no high-minded, jargon-filled presentations. Talk to the right people. Get agreement. Then just freaking do it.

However, when you begin the implementation be subtle, be flexible, be adaptable. The goal is tranquil change. The adverb changes the paradigm.

Starting it quickly is important. Doing it quietly is equally as important. Doing it so quietly that business partners don’t realize what’s happening until well after it’s happened is awesome. It’s a sneak attack of awesome.

The tranquil implementation: a study in peaceful productivity. Never mind the dead frog.

Will it work? We’ll see. I’ll have a chance to test it very soon.

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