8 Laws of Transformation: Long distance running lessons from my kids

I learned a very important lesson today while running 10km with my kids. (Me running, they on bikes)

If you don't pace your organization's transformation properly and with balance, you risk losing your running companions.

I just completed the slowest 10K I've ever done. In fact it took me 20% longer than my last 10K time. I am just happy that I was able to complete it. I almost didn't make it, at one point on the verge of calling in a friend with a truck to come haul us back home.
So what happened?

Feeling especially energetic today I determined I would conquer a 10km run with all 3 of my kids riding their bikes along with me. (Ages 9, 7 and *gulp* 4.)

To garner their interest I painted a vision for them of how our route would wind through Sherwood Park and that we would stop and play at EVERY SINGLE playground that we encountered.

We were launching our first ever (and last?) Sherwood Park Playground 10km Fun Run!
Sounds great right? Well it started great.

We started out with a bang. We visited 2 playgrounds by the 1km mark.
Things were going great.
Kids were pumped.

Hit another 2 playgrounds by the 2K mark.
All going well.
Drinking water.
Having fun.

Hit a fifth playground at which time my daughter came over and said:
"Dad this is the funnest time EVER!" and threw her arms around me and planted a kiss on my smiling face.
I have to admit that "I am the best Dad ever" thoughts were now going through my head.

So let's review. So far we are 3K in and we've hit 5 playgrounds. All good.

Now is where the story changes.

In my exuberance (if you know me, this isn't a stretch) I proclaimed, "We are now going to a playground that is BIGGER and BETTER than ANY of the 5 we've been to yet!"


So off we trekked. Me running. My 4, 7, and 9 year olds pedalling madly.

Too few milestones or tangible rewards along the way can spell trouble

4K mark.
Dad this is awesome.
How much further is the playground?
These trails are beautiful!

5K mark.
Dad I'm hot.
Can we take a break.
Where is the playground.
And now I'm *running* and pushing my 4 year old occasionally up the steeper hills.

6K mark.
Pretty much fully pushing my 4 year old now.
My 9 year old son is looking fatigued and all 3 are asking me non stop where this playground is.
We do finally get there at about 6.5K mark. It's not all that they had hoped for.
4 year old sprains his ankle.

Oasis. OK, not an oasis but at that point 7-11 did indeed feel like an oasis.
Slurpee's consumed.
Smiles returned.
Energy gained.
Optimism returns.
Off we go.

As I was running along side my youngest son pushing him the entire last 3K it dawned on me:
He is going through and experiencing what many experience while going through organizational transformation.

At the beginning of the journey everything sounded great. We're all going on a playground running tour! Wohoo! 10K? That can't be that far. (The farthest my kids have ever come with me on their bikes while I run is about 6K)
A promising adventure with a bright shiny ending.
Naïveté about the difficulty of the journey.

The first 3K's were done correctly. We stopped for breaks. There were playgrounds.
Tangible and realized milestones.
Measured progress.
Delivering on promises made.

The next 3K's. Stretching. Hard work but still the promise of something "just around the next turn". Questions start cropping up. How much further is it? Are we there yet? Cracks are showing.

The arrival.
This is it? This is what we spent all the energy for? Was it worth it?

The trek home.
Requires a team effort. Long. Hot. Hard. Tears. Can't we just be done. It required a positive and strongly motivated leader (me) to be the hand to push them along, offering encouragement and guidance and support for the phase where all felt there wasn't much left in the tank.

When we finally got home I debriefed with the kids. We all agreed together that we had gone too far and that next time we would start our return home at around the 3-4km mark. We need to work ourselves out as a group progressively to prepare for longer journeys in the future.

After experiencing this event I am convinced that what occurred for my kids is occurring for us who are working for an organization in the midst of a transformation.

So here's what I've concluded:

8 Things for Leaders to Remember While Going Through an Organizational Transformation

  1. We set out on an ambitious journey full of hope of the future promised land that we are heading towards. VISION
  2. We must remember to pace this journey for our people. PACE
  3. Offer them many tangible rewards along the way.
    Many water breaks. Many stops at playgrounds. REWARDS
  4. Many updates as to how far we've come and how far out we are from our goal. COMMUNICATION
  5. When we see something good, be quick to offer encouragement. ENCOURAGEMENT
  6. When we see someone starting to fall behind, run along side them and offer them direct encouragement and when the going gets really tough even offer a hand on the shoulder to propel them a bit so they can feel the wind in their face again. The feel of forward movement. SUPPORT
  7. Ensure that the distance or time between rest stops isn't too far or you will demoralize your people and they may begin to feel mistrust that you over promised and under delivered. MOMENTUM
  8. Finally when you make mistakes in calculation or judgement be quick to admit and take responsibility. RESPONSIBILITY

As always, I'm interested in your thoughts.
What has your experience with transformation taught you?


  1. it's pretty interesting how you compared Organizational Transformation with running with you kids, it made perfect sense.

    1. THANKS! It did to me too but that was after run in the hot sun for 1 hour and pushing a kid on a bike for a solid 3km's. Glad it made sense :-)

    2. Interesting comparisons. Maybe your colleagues could have used an additional tangible reward at the finish line that is unique and represents a feat that not many other people have. For example when you finish a marathon, you are given a medal, a picture of you crossing the finish line and a running bib all that you can add to your scrap book. How many other four year olds have biked 10k? This accomplishment has made him special and unique. This feeling of "special" and "unique" are almost a basic human need for fulfillment and happiness.

      My suggestion; pitch what an amazing feat we are about to undertake, then show them a little tangible reward at the end of the challenge that will be awaiting their return and represents their accomplishment. They will look forward to their toy when they get home and every time they play with that toy in the future, will remember the 10k bike ride they endured.

      Everybody is motivated in different ways. As a kid, that's what would have motivated me.

      Very clever story and management comparison by the way.

  2. Jordan-

    I don’t know you very well, but there is an RVA connection in there somewhere. I’ve been an auditor for 18 years, and I don’t mind saying what’s on my mind.
    First the positives: well written, laid out well, clear, and I like photos.
    Examples like this with kids make me look at my watch and yawn, I also see the glaze in the eyes of people around me as their minds wonder to thinking about their own kids, or just about anything else. They might even be making judgments about your fathering skills, good or bad. Not only does it establish some sort of uncomfortable feeling that the instructor/writer thinks I am a kid- it also makes the audience think you have some sort of fathering role over them.
    When things like this come up in your personal life, they are awesome flashes of light, and yes, you can learn and apply them to business/organization- but take the flash of light just that little bit further and put it into the context of working as a professional in a team- and keep the other stuff out. The message can get lost in so many distractions.
    I don’t see the link between org change and the 10K ride, to me this lesson would have been called "Selecting your team for success" or something. Just like rubbing two ice cubes together (no matter how hard) will never produce fire- getting some people (in this case your kids) to do something challenging can be a huge drain on management or impossible. Get a dog, find a running group, work them up to running farther slowly, or have them run the last mile with you. Point is that the team didn’t match the leader's needs- you could do this with your kids one day, maybe two; maybe even a week- but you certainly couldn’t do it for a year or longer 5 days a week. It would take several years to get them at that pace, but it could be done, but would you still have a management team around afterwards?
    Most people can’t remember beyond two or three items, can the eight be condensed? Would the conclusions be better at the top?

    1. As in DAVID Anstice? Wow it has been a long time. Appreciate the comments. Good to hear your perspective on the piece. It's all perspective isn't it? For me, I found a lesson on Transformation while running with my kids. Did the lesson work for you? Maybe not so much. Did it work for others? Maybe so. Regardless, I'm glad you read the piece and provided such candid feedback. Cheers!

    2. Yes, David Anstice. Dont get me wrong, running with your kids is an amazing thing- keep doing it and more of it- most people have lazy and fat kids. My message was this: to your audience, kid analogies may not be effective as it feels to you. There are too many distractions along the way that may work to derail the message. The challenge I am proposing to you is to dig beyond the initial lesson you get (from whatever source) and find an example that directly relates to their real time business activity instead of the original lesson source. For example, after your run and experience with your kids, talk to some managers in your organization to find out if there is a real example you can use to trumpet your 8 point message(no names,or too much detail, etc). Not only will you support good managers in your organization, you wont have the distractions of personal life. The lesson worked for me, I am just telling you how it may work better for me.

    3. Perfect David! I understand what you're saying and appreciate your thoughtful response. Feedback is excellent as it leads to improvement. Have you read the book Switch? What I'm trying to accomplish with how I write is to appeal to not only the rider but to the elephant as well. In case you haven't read the book rider = logic and elephant = emotions. The book states that to truly get a point across one must appeal to both. My writing technique is an attempt at accomplishing both by not sterilizing and sanitizing cold hard facts but relating them and allowing the reader to experience those things related to everyday existence. Not sure this makes sense to you but it's an intentional approach.


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