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?

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