Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Passenger-SideBrakes

Most of us took driver education as teenagers.  I remember a great deal about my personal experience, most of those memories of the amusing sort.   As an educator I never taught driver ed, yet I have heard some real horror stories from colleagues who have.

One of the unique features of the driver education experience is that the driver ed teacher sits on the passenger side of the training vehicle, with a brake installed on that side.  Thus, the teacher can slow or stop the vehicle at any time the student driver panics or misses an important cue regarding safety.

One of the things I’ve noticed in organizational work is a dynamic that is similar to that passenger-side brake in the driver education vehicle.  Organizational improvement is often dependent on making hard choices about direction and intensity.  Time and again I’ve seen members in an organization who don’t believe in the collectively-determined direction of the organization, or who are not on board with the related decisions made, behave in ways like the driver education teacher – they put their foot on the brake while the team at large is trying to accelerate.


While it makes perfect sense for a driver education teacher to have the power to “trump” the student driver, it does not make sense for recalcitrant or reluctant members of an organization to have the same kind of auxiliary “braking” power on the organization.  The result of that dynamic is organizational stasis, which is the prelude to organizational death.  

Leaders must be attuned to such a dynamic and remove the “braking” power of said members, or remove the members themselves.

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