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Thursday, June 28, 2012

#017 - Implementing Organizational Change? Learn How to Grow a Desert

All projects are change projects. That is the nature of projects – to create something new, to improve processes or to introduce something new into the business – and all of this requires people to adapt to the change. To better learn how to approach change - especially organizational change, we need to take a trip to a place that seems timeless, but is constantly changing.

White Sands, New Mexico - home to the largest gypsum dune field in the world, covering 275 square miles (712 sq km).

The glistening dunes of the White Sands desert are one of the wonders of the world, rising from the Tularosa basin on the eastern edge of the San Andres mountain range. Every year they slowly advance eastward across the Tularosa basin towards Alamogordo.

Gypsum sand is not a "normal" sand. Usually a desert like this would not even exist - gypsum is highly soluble and usually washes out of the hills and works its way down to the sea through streams and rivers.

In fact, the Tularosa basin used to be part of an inland sea, created by a massive rift when the continental plates pulled apart - but now it is a land-locked desert basin. It is part of the Chihuahuan Desert, seeing only a few inches of rain a year with no rivers to carry moisture (or gypsum) away.

The desert basin is also very flat - really flat, as only the bottom of an old sea or lake can be. When driving up to White Sands from El Paso, I literally drove in a straight line at 70mph/113kph (yes the speed limit) for an hour or more. And it felt like I was crawling.

The White Sands dune field is a good model for looking at Organizational change - progress can often be slow and steady, with occasional bursts of movement. From a distance, change may not even be apparent at all over short periods of time. And with the "wrong" environmental factors, progress can be literally washed away. But with persistence and the right change agents working together, you can move mountains. 

Listen to the podcast, or read the article on Gazza's Corner blog.

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