Merge's Blog

Implementing change should be like shaking a champagne bottle

ChampagneAs we kick off the new year, people everywhere make promises, to themselves and others, to make changes. Whether it’s in the professional or personal arena, the start of a brand new year always seems like a good time to stop doing, start doing, improve or enhance aspects of our lives. And if you’re in a leadership role, you’ve no doubt made resolutions about things that you want to change in your department or organization in order to make your services, products and people more efficient, effective, productive and positive. Unfortunately though, history tells us that far too many change initiatives start off with energy and enthusiasm, and then fizzle and sputter back to the status quo. So what can you do to ensure a different outcome for yourself this time? What can you do to make certain that your change initiatives stick? Consider champagne – a beverage you might have enjoyed a glass of when you rang in the new year!

Champagne is naturally effervescent and if you gently shake an unopened bottle, the bubbles come to life.   Leave the bottle alone for a while though, and eventually, as the bubbles are reabsorbed, the effervescence goes away. Things go back to normal. But something completely different happens if you shake the bottle vigorously. The bubbles increase exponentially and start to build up pressure within the bottle. Eventually, enough agitation creates enough effervescence that bottle cap pops and champagne flows out everywhere (and on everybody)! Once the contents escape the champagne bottle, there is no turning back. You can’t put the champagne back in. The status quo can never return; things can never go back to “normal” again.

This metaphor is worth considering as you contemplate your planned change initiatives for the upcoming year. The conventional belief is that slow and steady will produce the best results – “Take your time, gain experience, and take measured steps to get to the end”. But the reality is that when it comes to implementing change, gentle shaking is not the way to go. Sure, you’ll create movement, but eventually, things will go back to normal, back to the status quo. Result: no change. The only way to create transformational change is shake things up, a whole lot! As you think about how you implement your organization’s change initiatives, your goal should be to create enough effervescence to “blow the top”, to create enough energy so that there is no turning back, so that there is simply no chance to return to “normal”.

Well, what do you think? Does this champagne metaphor hold true when it comes to implementing change? What will it take to “blow the top”? Please share your ideas by adding a Comment.

If this post caught your interest, you might find this post I wrote back in October 2010 about “why flying is better than driving” to be of value.  It was titled Build speed and momentum for new project success.

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