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“I want too much”
There are times where the pace of change is just so rapid that it’s too much to bear. Whether it’s in the workplace or our personal lives, getting thrashed around by the waves of change is far from a comfortable experience.
Let’s look at an example.
At the time of this writing, it’s the back half of November 2022. Elon Musk has recently taken over Twitter and proceeded to do all of the following in the span of three weeks:
Take the company private.
Become the sole board member of the company.
Introduce new features to the product.
Terminate 3,700 staff.
Cause key leaders to leave voluntarily.
End the company’s “work from anywhere” policy.
Speculate that the company could go bankrupt.
Offer voluntary severance packages to employees who did not want to stay at Twitter and work “hardcore.”
That’s definitely not the full list. But it’s a lot. (And I tried my best to write the above list without using any judgmental words.)
This is a clear example of too many changes happening at once. And these aren’t small changes, either. Many of those line items above are enough of a major change that it would be a pivotal event in the life of a company. And they’ve all happened within a compressed period of time.
In fact, when faced with the prospect of even more changes in the future, the majority of the remaining Twitter employees chose to take a severance package and depart the company voluntarily. They had literally had their fill of change. It was proving too much.
The appropriate metaphor for this type of change is that of a “BAND-AID” — in order to take off a BAND-AID with the minimal amount of pain, the best approach is to rip it off. In the Twitter example, there are numerous BAND-AIDs being ripped off simultaneously.
Taking this metaphor further — when multiple metaphorical BAND-AIDs are ripped off at the same time, the result is thrashing. Thrashing is defined in the dictionary as “moving in a violent or convulsive way.”
Thrashing is not healthy for people or companies.
People (and companies) are not at their best in environments where thrashing is commonplace. Stress is high. Context switching happens often. Trust is low. And those are just a few of the problems. But they’re very big problems.
Let’s go back to the Twitter example.
The Verge printed a transcript of a Q&A session at Twitter, where employees asked Musk questions. Musk openly riffed on numerous potential features that he’d love to see come to the product. Whether it was video enhancements, or the ability to pay for things directly through Twitter, Musk didn’t identify a specific enhancement as his top priority. After the Q&A session wrapped up and employees went back to work, I wonder how they felt. My guess is that they felt like they were being thrashed even more than they were when they joined the Q&A. Not only were those hugely impactful changes happening to their company, but the CEO delivered a message that was very ambiguous.
Musk didn’t give them anything to focus on.
He gave them lots of “maybes” and “wouldn’t it be awesome ifs.” He gave them the possibility of even more change. Change that wasn’t even remotely concrete. Providing a singular area of focus for the remaining Twitter employees would’ve been helpful. It would’ve given them something to focus on during incredibly turbulent times.
The solution to thrashing is the exact opposite — it’s focus.
Maybe some specific area of focus from Musk would’ve been enough to retain some the folks who decided to voluntarily resign. Maybe it wouldn’t have.
We won’t have the opportunity to find out.
Dave Matthews Band — “Too Much”
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