Lean into Change

Lean into Change

My family has a long history with motorbike racing.  My grandfather was pretty famous in his day as both a rider and a gifted mechanic.  So from a young age, my cousins and I were riding on the motorcycle tanks of some amazing vintage bikes.  (Certainly not something we’d be doing these days!)  As we grew older we were gradually allowed to steer, accelerate and brake and use the clutch.  Until finally, the day came, when we were deemed old enough (or in my case tall enough!) to ride on our own.

It was in those initial trips on the petrol tank that we were taught the importance of leaning into the corners.  Of how your body weight needed to move with the bike, not against it.  As our confidence and ability grew, we learnt how to shift our weight to prepare for a corner and then lean into it.  We soon understood that doing so made our ride smoother and safer.

I was reminded of this recently while sitting at the lights watching a motorbike and its rider gracefully navigate a T intersection, executing a perfect 90-degree turn.  I watched as the rider prepared for the corner, shifting their weight only slightly and then leaned in and accelerated out of the turn.

It struckwinding-road-set-of-curves me that organisations can learn from this simple example when preparing for change.

Prepare for the corner   Do you allow your people time to prepare for the corner?  Signifying an upcoming change gives your people time to work out how they need to shift their weight in order to make the turn.  Too many organisations still believe BAU is a long smooth straight rather than the windy road it has become.  Prepare your staff by putting out the windy road sign and shouting “corner ahead”.


Encourage people to lean in       If your organisation needs to make a sharp 90-degree turn you need to encourage your people to lean into the corner.  Otherwise, gravity will take over and they won’t make the turn.  My time on petrol tanks taught me that you’ll only start to lean in when either a gentle hand guides you, or you naturally move with the motion.  It’s hard to naturally move when a corner comes out of nowhere and takes you by surprise.

The speed at which you take the corner determines how far you need to lean    A corner taken at speed requires a complete shift of weight, a lean will not do.  Watch a motorbike race and you’ll see what I mean.  To achieve a change at speed your people need to make a complete shift; usually in perspective and mindset first.  But this can also include product lines, business outcomes, business structure, roles and responsibilities.  If they simply lean into it, they won’t make the corner and will veer off track completely.

Visualise the line you’ll take through the corner    Often, especially with tight corners, you can’t see what’s around the bend so you pick your entry point and predict in your mind’s eye where the exit point will be.  The same is true with change.  We can pick our entry point and decide how far we’ll lean but we can’t always see what’s around the corner so we need to predict an exit point.  Change without any predicted end point means your people have no line to follow and they will neither trust or commit to the change.

Always scan the road ahead   On a bike, you ride into the corner eagerly scanning the road ahead and once you’re assured your line is good, you power out of the corner.  However, you’re prepared to adjust course quickly should you encounter something you didn’t expect. That’s because you’re not looking at where you are, you’re looking to where you’re going.  People need to be given ongoing, timely information on the road up ahead so they can shift their focus from where they are, to where they are going.

Follow these tips and it should be a smooth ride next time you or your organisation face a T-intersection.

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