Dance your way into change

During large change efforts you need change agents. People convinced in the better of the change and willing to take the first steps, to make the first move.

This goes beyond management. Although getting sufficient management support from day one is an important need, you need change agents, change leaders, on the work floor too.

These profiles are the ones taking the first steps and showing the wanted behavior. Coworkers who are early believers will join and mimic their behavior. And by time more and more (believers or mimickers?) will join until the critical mass joins too.

Don’t invest too much time in those who are opposed. Work around them and try to get the masses into moving. Follow the high lights and invest in them.

The analogy of the dancing leader is shown in following video on YouTube:

First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

It tells the story of one person dancing crazy at a festival. At first, people think “what the hell is he doing there?”. But after some time a first one joins, some more time is past and few others join, while at the end, the group is getting so big, you’re crazy if you would not join!

First Follower - Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

First Follower – Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy


When all those people start to dance on different places in different ways, it could be that you need choreography too. I saw this in action at another festival, Tomorrowland 2012. On a certain time during the performance of Yves V, there were multiple groups at multiple location trying to do the same dance. There was only one person who could see what was happening, but he could also see that it wasn’t going to work this way: it was the DJ. So he stopped the music and gave following feedback:

Ok Tomorrowland, listen. We are going to try and move this forward to epic proportion.
Every now and then you see a formation breaking out here and a formation breaking out there, and it looks absolutely amazing.
And I know you want to be part of it.
So what we are going to do: is just keep it simple. We’re going to move things forward, move things backward. Move things to the left, move things to the right. Ok?
Follow what you feel, do what you like, you don’t have to listen to me. It’s all about house music.
One two three four, backwards, forward.

The DJ took on the roll of coach here, not regarding if it was a manager coaching, or a designated coach (eg. lean coach). To give feedback, he used the feedback framework :

he described facts (multiple groups trying the same dance)
he described the effect it had on him (it’s not going to work out this way)
he gave advice (dance instructions)
and his advice was for you to consider (you can choose what you do, it’s all about the music)

To conclude, for making a successful change effort, you need believers willing to lead the dance and you need coaches to make sure we’re all dancing to the same beat. The rest will follow.

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