Worn Sneakers & Broken Systems

80 degrees

79% humidity

The conditions for my 6:00 am run today.

Rather than refreshing, I felt like I was running through lava.

Slow. Resistant. Miserable.

To make matters worse, my running shoes are old and worn.  They are done!  They have logged all the miles they need to log but I’ve been putting off buying a new pair.  I haven’t had time.  I haven’t wanted to spend the money.  They haven’t bothered me enough until today when the external forces beyond my control were exasperated by something I can control.

Why do we have to get pushed to the limit to make necessary changes?

While I do this with the simple things like sneakers, I also do this with the major things in my leadership.

One of the places I see teams “wearing worn sneakers” is with internal systems.  Systems are simply the methods you’ve created to get things done in your organization.  It could be how you assimilate volunteers, how you assess employee performance, or who takes out the trash.  You have a system whether you’ve purposefully designed it or not.

The trouble is that growing organizations quickly outgrow old systems.  You have to recreate them.  You have to give them new life.  You have to take what is old, worn and tired and inspire with fresh, new and energized.

But oftentimes this is the stuff we keep pushing off until the external conditions push back so much on our old worn out system that we have no choice but to change it.

A sure sign you have a worn out system is when you hear things like “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.  If your team doesn’t understand the true purpose of your system, it’s likely worn out and needs to be recreated.

What’s feeling tired and worn out in your organization?  What would it take to re-energize it?


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  • Linda Ojutkangas July 20, 2013  

    As a leader, I always cringed when someone said, “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. After several unsuccessful attempts of pitching a new idea to these individuals, I finally learned to prepare in advance and ease into a new idea and make others feel as though they had a hand in creating something new. Change is good, but it tends to frighten people. Kind of like your shoes, Jen. They are comfortable, worn in, until they are just too worn out to work anymore. Then you get the new shoes and have to break them in. People are the same way. Great post!