In Aesop’s fable of the Tortoise and the Hare both animals set of for a race. A race that is really about two strategies to achieve change. Tortoise, tired of hearing Hare boasting his speed, challenges him. All the animals of the forest gather to watch. Hare is fast to run down the road and after a while looks over his shoulder. Noticing that Tortoise is far behind he takes a rest and falls asleep under a tree. But Tortoise, albeit moving slowly, is moving steadily. And he overtakes Hare during his sleep and wins.
For me the morale is not so much that Tortoise wins. Just think of what would have happened if the finish line had been further or closer by? Both animals are alternating the front position in the race. Where Hare is progressing in big noticeable leaps, Tortoise is advancing almost invisibly.
If the race would be a change project, then both strategies seem to be working.
Change Hare style or Tortoise style
Let me explain it in a more mundane way and take my kids as example. I have two of them. My oldest changes Hare style, my youngest Tortoise style.
My oldest will postpone the moment to change. Push him, and he will counteract, refusing to try even the simplest of steps (the ones you know he also knows he masters). The best is to leave him until suddenly it’s done. The change has been realised, there is no way back.
My youngest will start right away, with obviously in the beginning mixed success. But slowly results will start improving, sometimes there’s a backlash or a hic-up, and then she’ll start again, in an improved way. It works too.
As far as I am concerned I have become entrepreneur Hare style but turned vegetarian Tortoise style. It took me some 6 years to turn fully vegetarian from the moment I occasionally started skipping meat in my meals. It was a slow but steady process. But how long did it take me to turn entrepreneur? I don’t know; I was postponing the decision until the moment I couldn’t anymore. And then it I took the decision and it happened.
So what change strategy to chose?
And I see organisations using both strategies. Some like big bang Hare style, other creep forward Tortoise style changing the small things that seem reachable now.
So I am a little puzzled to see what strategy to chose. When would you advocate a Hare style change leadership? When a Tortoise style? What conditions do you need for each of them?