I knew that the tide would come in and wet my feet in due course and I also knew that all I could do was wait. Well, not quite all I could do. I suppose that could go and hire a JCB, dig some channels from the current waters edge back to where I am standing and the water would arrive that much quicker. However, all that effort to save an hour or two. Was it really worth it? Perhaps I could spend my time, with the inevitability of waiting, planning for what I could do when the water finally did arrive.
The metaphor for change struck me instantly. Sometimes we want things to happen yet external circumstances almost dictate that these things will happen at of their pace and not ours. Yes, we can put lots of effort into trying to accelerate the inevitable but why waste all that effort when the inevitable is inevitable and sooner or later the change we are seeking will happen. Maybe there is a better use of that time, planning and preparing, maybe even focusing on some other aspects of the change.
Just as when the tide comes in my expensively dug channel to accelerate the change will be filled in by the oncoming waters, so often the efforts that we put into accelerating change produce no long term benefits (unless, and I have seen this happen, all the effort is put into enabling some consultant to meet an artificially imposed milestone – tragic!).
So, next time you are waiting for change to happen, remember that one of the things you can do is nothing. Remember that the forces of nature, or perhaps the forces of the culture within an organisation are extremely difficult to resist and this change will occur when those forces allow it. Don’t lose your bulldozer trying to accelerate something that will happen anyway.