Using disasters

A while back, I was working at a company with a noticeable lack of diversity at the most senior engineering level. This was mostly tolerated, until leadership created a technical advisory committee with one requirement for joining: you had to be at the most senior engineering level.

In other words, no minority groups allowed in the advisory committee. Employees understandably flipped out, causing a dramatic weeks-long cultural crisis. But by the end of it, leadership was taking the problem of diversity at the senior levels seriously.

The crisis led to change. The problem was the solution.

In Cedric Chin’s post on org designing, he talks about getting org changes to take. In a list of strategies, these two caught my eye:

Use disasters to my full advantage (people are usually more receptive to trying new ways of doing things in the wake of something painful).
Strategically allow certain things to blow up so that I could exploit the pain to introduce org change, as per 4) above.

I like this way of thinking. A disaster is an opportunity. People’s change tolerance increases drastically during times of crisis. So take advantage of them, and maybe even let them happen from time to time.

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