Change: “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

The quote above is by Wayne Gretzky.  (Also ascribed to Michael Jordan.)
I am flying to Canada now. And I like hockey.

Today the quote reminds me of how hard change is.

To make any change happen in an organization is hard.  It takes a lot of energy.  It takes a willingness to miss a shot, to make a mistake, as Gretzky says.  Takes guts.  Most people don’t have guts for things they don’t really care about.

Why is it so hard?

First, I think organizations are mainly there to remain ‘static’.  A company is there to preserve the status quo, as we often call it.  The current processes.  Yes, yes, of course any corporation is building things or providing services for its customers; a kind of change is happening all the time.

The main idea of the corporation is to assure that the basics are there every day.  Regular, unchanging.  The building is there, warm (or cool), the lights are on, the processes are known, you know who to go to, etc.  The same.  Every day.  Despite all the other things in the world that are changing.

And people want that.  They need that stability.

Second, while people actually like some change, some degree of variety, still…

They don’t want to be changed by someone else.  They don’t want to be the helpless pawn of some brilliant change that I (the great and wonderful Oz) am bringing them.  No one wants to be a helpless pawn.

Also, there is too much change these days.  People are tired of it.  Why now, is everything from yesterday stupid, and today, for the 1000th time, we must change everything?  Too much (damn) change!  Stop it!

Feel this yourself, and see if it ties back to that helplessness.

Still, people like change, they believe in improving their situation.  So, if you can tie your idea to that inner feeling of progress, then change,  at least to some degree becomes palatable.

Third, politics.

By this I mean the messiness of dealing with people in groups, the hierarchy, the power, the games. With any change, we must ‘play politics’ to some degree. Very bothersome for most of us.

So, where am I going with this?

This idea: One must be very motivated if one is going to start to make a significant change in a company (or any organization).  Very motivated.  Otherwise, one is easily stopped by all the barriers.

Kotter calls this motivation “a sense of urgency”.

I recently had an in-house course.  I was teaching them Scrum.

Most found some aspects of it ‘impossible’.  Meaning, most of them did not think they could get the culture in their company to change that much.

My initial reaction was frustration (not shown outwardly).  They in effect wanted me to change Scrum.  Frustrated that these very talented people would let potentially good change just go by; ‘merely’ because they thought that such change was ‘impossible’.  I say this in part because I know that people — less talented than these — have made this kind of change happen. And against odds equally as great.

But, looking back; frustration is not good. Also not appropriate.  They don’t owe it to me to change.  My getting angry that they can’t see the benefits and push through, is also kind of silly.

Now, I am reading Fearless Change by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising.  One of the change patterns in the book is Personal Touch.  I started reading that pattern.


Two big flashes of insight.

First, most of the people in that group do not value the change in the way I do.  And they have no reason to.  They had no experience of its success.  To them, it was just ‘Joe talking’ — maybe sounds good, but no inner conviction yet.

Secondly, everyone is different.  One has to explain the change to each person, slowly, and help them see how it will benefit them (or that it has benefited them).

So, once you have helped someone care enough, gotten through to them in some unique way, then you will see someone who will help make change happen.

Someone who will take many shots, and happily miss many, knowing that eventually it will go in.

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3 thoughts on “Change: “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

  1. Larry Bock


    The ‘aha’ moment you discovered provided me an insight as well. At my company, we are in the midst of an agile transformation. It has been difficult however we are making progress. Everyone does not see the “obvious” benefit of the change we are proposing. As you suggest, we need to facilitate the changes, one person at a time.

    Thanks for the inisghts!

    Larry Bock

  2. pragati

    Hi Joe,
    A long and pretty insightful article. I have to hand it to you for being motivated enough to go through the same cycles of people’s emotions, your reaction to people’s emotions, attempts to steer them right etc. again and again. But like you say, even if you miss some shots, if you turn one person into an ‘advocate’ with the shot you get, your work is done.

    I think this perseverance is the mark of a true teacher, and you’re truly the charioteer (you will understand my reference no doubt).


    1. Joe Little Post author

      Hi Pragati,

      Thank you for your kind remarks.
      Please do not call me the charioteer. Smile.
      I am not close to that wise nor that powerful nor that important.

      But, I am trying to be a guide and a help to others, so in that way a ‘teacher’ to others.
      Which is similar to what a charioteer might do.

      Best regards, Joe

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