I am working through the acrostic DREAMS, on how to navigate change without losing your crew.
Last time we started with D and discovered the value of determining your destination and having a good map to start.
Now we will dive into the R.
It was a beautiful day on the Arkansas River with a nice medium-low flow and I thought it would be the perfect time to row my raft through the Royal Gorge for the first time.
I had a couple of seasons under my belt but had not felt comfortable moving up to the more serious class 4-5 rapids. After reading a detailed guidebook I felt like I was ready to give it a try. I recruited my teenage son to sit up front for ballast and to read the guide to me as we approached each rapid.
We set out and things were going fine until we hit Sledgehammer rapid. This particular rapid has a number of features and there are 3 distinct drops. The book warned against getting caught in Clark’s hole at the end of the rapid on the right.
So we made our way through the rapid and I thought to myself “that seemed pretty easy”. The water had slowed down and was calm for a stretch. I was trying to look back to figure out where Clarks Hole was. I consulted with my son and the guidebook but couldn’t seem to make sense of it.
All of a sudden I realize we are coming up to a drop that I wasn’t expecting. Yes, you guessed it, we dropped right into Clarks Hole with no momentum and at a bad angle.
It immediately pulled us in and we started surfing the hole. Both my son and I lept to the downstream side of the boat in order to prevent our flipping. Clark had died in this hole and I wasn’t about to repeat that scenario.
After what seemed like an hour (probably 2 minutes) a surge in the river allowed us to pop out of the hole and we were able to make it to shore down below and evaluate what had just happened.
Lessons from the river:
1. No matter how good your plan or guidebook/map is, it doesn’t guarantee success. You must be able to read the river.
As a leader you need to be able to identify potential pitfalls before you start but also respond to obstacles along the way. These could be external threats like regulations or competition. They can be internal in the form of people that resist change or budget constraints or technology glitches.
2. Looking back when you are in the middle of a rapid is a setup for failure.
Don't spend time over what didn't work in the past. During your change process you need to be focused on what is ahead.
3. Sometimes you have to make quick decisions along the way. Indecision wraps boats.
Indecision can paralyze a business causing a change initiative to fail. Be ready and willing to make decisions at the right time. Most of the time even a bad decision is better than no decision.
Just a bit of river education. There are 3 things that create a rapid. 1. Constriction, 2. Gradient, 3. Obstacles
So when the river narrows, drops, and has rocks, you can be assured that there will be some turbulence ahead.
It is also important to understand something about rocks.
They can be great fun because they actually create the waves that make rafting fun. But they can also be frustrating and/or dangerous.
At lower flows rocks have to be avoided or else the boat can get stuck wrapping around the rock. In this case, the strategy is to go around them. Indecision (on which way to go) wraps boats.
Rocks that are just barely covered are called sleepers. They are difficult to see and while it looks like you can float on by, when you try it, the weight of the boat causes the rock to grab the boat and spin you off course.
At higher flows rocks can become pour overs and keeper holes. These must be avoided or risk a flipped boat and/or lots of rafters becoming swimmers.
What do business leaders need to look for when trying to lead change.
What are the rocks, holes, or obstacles that will prevent you from accomplishing your objectives?
Things to consider:
Next up is our letter DREAMS where we will be taking a look at the role and responsibilities of leadership in change.
In the meantime if you would like to chat about your change initiative you can schedule a time here.
Dwight Grant is a seasoned businessman with over 30 years of leadership experience. He lives in CO where he enjoys whitewater rafting, mountain biking and spending time with family.