Organizational transformations are like a plane taking off: each takeoff is an act of faith and commitment.

It is an act of faith that the laws of physics still work — that the air flowing over the wings will lift us; that the plane is airworthy; that the flight crew is competent and on-the-ball; that all the details have been attended to that will allow this plane to once again change its trajectory and leave the ground to fly.

It’s a commitment because the only way to fly is to go for it. Sitting at the end of the runway, looking down its short length, the only thing to do is to go full-steam ahead and trust that the plane will actually fly. Once you’ve started there’s a point of no return where the only way out is up.

But it doesn’t happen right away. For anxious flyers the roar down the runway can seem like an eternity. The plane shakes, the engines strain, the seats and compartments shift and rattle. And yet for most of the runway the plane does not fly. As the end of the runway gets closer it’s more and more obvious that this was indeed an all or nothing commitment.

And then it happens. The nose lifts and the wings settle into their role as the wheels lift for the exhilarating climb. The entire plane adjusts itself for flight. All the extra stuff that was needed to get into the air, the wheels, slats, and flaps retract and streamline. The plane is doing what it is meant to do: fly.

Of course not all takeoffs are the same: bigger planes take longer than smaller planes; the more baggage you have the harder it is; taking off in a storm is tricky; and of course the crew is hugely important. Most failures to get or stay airborne are human failures, failures of judgement in preparing, loading, or piloting the plane. But taking off is what planes do, especially into headwinds. All the noise and shaking are just part of the ride.

Think about it next time you start an organizational transformation!

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