Home » Change Management » Lessons Learned From The California Drought

Lessons Learned From the Caifornia DroughtCalifornia captures enough water each year to meet all its needs if it operates efficiently — a big if. … “There’s learning, information sharing, creativity, and discovery.” The drought is speeding up the process. “What causes change more than anything is crisis,” Thomas Howard, executive director of the State Water Resources Control Board …. “I do see us making progress and moving toward the ideal system.” If not, there’s always Plan B: Pray for rain. Making Water More Liquid, Bloomberg Businessweek, Aug 10, 2015.

I often describe how in all my projects and in my transformations of organizations I’ve never had to ask for more resources.  We often got more resources, but it was never essential to the fundamental success of what we were trying to do.

Once we figured out the root causes of our problems and focus on fixing those, the insatiable need for more people, more money and more time inevitably went away.  

See Why Your Project Does Not Need More People, More Time And More Money

I spent this summer driving around southern California, looking at colleges for my youngest daughter.  She wants to go where the action is, in her way of thinking, and so has decided that California is the place.  As we drove, especially from Los Angeles up to San Francisco, we saw a lot of signs and evidence of the drought that is going on there.  My first thoughts, as I read some of the humorous billboards and signs people had put up complaining about the drought and who was responsible for the lack of water, was that it looked like the typical food fight I’ve seen in struggling organizations.  No one, based upon the signs and billboards, appeared to be creatively looking for solutions or how to better use what resources they had.  Instead they all appeared to be focused on getting more of the same but from somebody else and blaming others on the current plight.

That’s what happened in the 2008 financial crisis in Russia, when “the government sprayed liquidity all over the economy …. The big miss in 2008 was the failure to use the crisis to pursue deep structural reforms.”  Can Putin Save Russia’s Struggling Companies?, Bloomberg Businessweek, Aug 10, 2015.

While the Businessweek article goes on to outline more of the less visible efforts to improve the situation, it also confirmed some of what I was seeing.  It also reminded me that often times we don’t fix anything until it becomes a true crisis.  The crisis is an opportunity for a leader to do things that may have been difficult or impossible while things were not yet a crisis.

Never let a good crisis go to waste — Winston S. Churchill

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” — Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago

The solution is almost always stepping out of our comfort zone and doing things we don’t want to do. To take a chance on something that disrupts what we know and what we base our daily lives on.   Once that is done and — endured — it becomes the “norm” and we settle into a new way of doing business.  It is making that transition, and leveraging the crisis to get the changes into place, that is the challenging and scary step.  Once we do that, make the change, we also often discover that what we currently have is already enough: our limited resources are now more than adequate.  That is the surprise that too many people have a hard time comprehending even after it is achieved.

For more on change see Why Change Management Projects Are Hard And How To Succeed Anyway

What are you doing to overcome the “drought” in your project?

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