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Being Stung By Leading Organizational Change

This blog is inspired by a book of poems and drawings called Falling Up by Shel Silverstein.  Here it is:

Three Stings

George got stung by a bee and said,

“I wouldn’t have got stung if I’d stayed in the bed.”

Fred got stung and we heard him roar,

“What am I being punished for?”

Lew got stung and we heard him say,

“I learned something’ about bees today.”

I remember as a child not really wanting to go outside and play because of all of the dangers there compared to the comfort of the fortress of solitude of my bedroom.  One of the things I was always afraid of was being stung by a bee.  And then it happened.  I finally got stung.  At first, I was like George in the poem … “I never should have gone outside!” But then something else happened – once I got stung, it just wasn’t that scary anymore.  Oh, it hurt, but it didn’t kill me.  Humm, sounds like IT Transformation to me, or more generally, leading organizational change.

Destiny brought this poem to me on the heels of getting stung pretty badly while leading IT change at a former position. Something didn’t go my way. I reacted like Fred that time – what was I being punished for when I was doing what was being asked of me? What did I do wrong? So, I simply did what any seasoned and mature executive would do – (1) cried; (2) drank cosmopolitans in large quantities; and (3) went to Las Vegas for the weekend.

I recall a wonderful panel of CIOs that I had the pleasure of listening to.  Two of the CIOs had left the government but had been in the same Department.  They were talking about the bane of every CIO’s existence – consolidating email infrastructure.  The first CIO said that as he looked back to see what his successors did, he wished that he [got out of the bed] started that initiative knowing that it needed to be done.  The second CIO said, yes, he started it, but he got treated so badly by the Department for doing what was asked of him [he was being punished] and was weary.  I admired their candor and marveled that they shared their leadership lessons.  And I learned about bees that day.

So, I dried my tears, sobered up, and didn’t hit the jackpot, but I learned another lesson about bees and was reminded of something I learned about change leadership.  It stings. 



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