Slow Change

Slow Change

Progress in learning organisations comes in its own time, at its own pace. Some folks might wish to see that pace accelerated.

“Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it”

~ from The Tale of the Monkey’s Paw

I share the belief of the folks in the Slow Movement, that care, concern for others, the building of meaningful connections and relationships – the bedrock of the learning organisation – is best tackled unforced and unhastily.

“The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on you better speed up. That is the message of today. It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.”

~ Professor Guttorm Fløistad

Where does that leave the frantic clamour for change in most organisations today? For the large part, I’d say it leaves it screaming into the wind. Forcing change faster than its natural pace makes no sense to me, bringing as it does a whole host of inevitable dysfunctions, such as stress, disassociation, and disaffection.

Better, I think, to take things as they come, to take careful steps, with maybe a tad of due consideration for progressing in the right direction.

And to take time to see each other as human beings, to encourage a sense of community, of a journey made together, not for the sake of arriving, but for the joy of the journey.

So, when considering the pace of change, would you be willing to fret a little less about seeing things happen faster, and become a little more comfortable with the natural rhythms and pace of events?

– Bob

  1. Good point. Change is not about speed.
    What helps my patience when I’m in “passionate for improvement” mood, is feeling respectful for the system as it has developed to become successful. Gentleness trumps brute force any day.
    Thank you!

  2. This brings to mind “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team”. The goal of the CEO was to build a team — slowly bringing those feelings of appreciation and belonging.

  3. Mirko said:

    What determines the speed of an organization?

  4. Bob,

    I hope by waiting 2 weeks before commenting on this post I’m helping fulfil you need for more slow considered approach to things?

    I’ve always had a concern over words like “slow” and “slack” while I get (at least naïvely) a few of the principles behind the concepts and agree with many of them. My concern is around the association these words have with “lazy” or “unproductive”.

    I’m sure this is not you’re intent.

    Having just started reading Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, it struck me that the opening discussion about rivers running deep or rivers running wide is perhaps the point?

    Most change programmes I’ve been involved in and read about run wide. In order to have change visible they cut away at the banks, but this makes the river wide and reduces the force of the flow of water.

    What the slow change approach means is that things must go deeper. You’re working just as hard (if not harder as I suspect the emotional effort required is more) than the “quick wins” crew. But visible changes are slower, But the long term effect is clear; much improved (and coherent) flow of water as the silt is removed.

    So in this way it is the “fast change” people who are lazy. They take the short-cuts, ultimately making the organisation less productive in the long term (a big slow moving delta). It is the slow change people who look more deeply at the work currently being done and remove the silt their clearing the path for more a productive organisation.

    Anyway I’m rambling a bit. Thanks for the post, it’s been most useful for me. I’d be interested to here if our thoughts align or if I’m going off at tangents.



    • Hi Andy,

      Thanks for joining the conversation.

      Yes, the common associations with “slow” and “slack” can prove problematic.
      I like your connection to Pirsig’s river analogy. Seems appropriate. And yes, I feel an affinity between slow and deep. I am minded of stories about Japanese-style consensus-building; apparently slow to get started, but very effective once all parties are (deeply) aligned with a common purpose.


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