How Change Happens Suddenly, Over Time

I was recently reminded of the power of repetition, and how change happens suddenly over time. If the second half of that sentence does not seem to make sense, allow me to explain. 

Working in manufacturing, I make it a point to walk our production floor every day I am in the office. I want to see, know, and connect with the people who make up our team — and the only way to do that is by actually doing that, rather than giving lip service to it. I’ve learned that I simply put on my walking shoes and get moving! 

Repetition Leads to Routine

The first day that you go out and walk the shop floor, nothing will look or feel different. If you’re like me you would see people working across an injection molding facility. They would see you, with many waving or saying hello. It would be a good experience, potentially even an interesting one, but not a transformative one. You might be tempted to think it was not worth the effort. After all, you had to stop whatever it was that you were doing to go walk the production floor. 

Then the next day comes, and again, you would have a choice to make. Did yesterday matter? It probably did not feel like it did. It was nice seeing people, hearing from a few of them, but it was hardly transformational. Should you do it again? You committed to it, so out of pure commitment you do. 

You do the same the next day, and the day after that. A few weeks later, you realize that this is turning into a routine. Since it is part of your routine, you no longer have to be as intentional as you were at the beginning. It simply is part of what you do. 

Routine Leads to Transformation

At some point along the way, you’ll start to realize that the friendly nods and hellos are turning into some occasional conversations. The conversations are the best part. You begin to learn about of the challenges your teammates are facing at work, and occasionally, at home. 

Then one day, if you are like me, you realize that change has happened suddenly over time. This happens when you find yourself having one of those conversations that make the whole day worthwhile. The kind that is both meaningful and transformational. The kind that makes you feel like it was destiny. Sure, your title might be something fancy, but titles are just external descriptors of what you sort of do. Conversations like these, however, are tied to the person you are: A leader who realizes that they can only make things happen with, and through, other people. 

And this only happens through the power of repetition. The reality that each moment matters, and that each moment spent well, leads to transformational change. 

It happens suddenly, but over time.