Change Management – the Oversize Load Approach

Effective change management is critical in today’s rapidly changing workplace. Regardless of your field, educating and preparing your organization for changes will play a key role in success. While experts are needed for optimal results, some key concepts should be practiced by anyone effecting change. I call these concepts the Oversized Load Approach.

Oversize Load Sign on a Semi Truck - Source - Origamidon - Load

You’ve seen an oversized load on the road. These trucks, carrying larger loads than usual have bright signs that read “Oversize Load”. In addition, the trucks often have other signals, such as flashing lights and / or flags or streamers to catch the attention of other drivers.

At the office, your changes are similar to these oversize loads. Your change does not fit in the traditional  boundaries. You’re introducing new technology, processes or expectations.  As a result, the change should be marked. This is not “business as usual”.

Lead Flag Car

On the road, oversize loads are preceded by a lead flag car (sometimes called a pilot car or escort). These flag cars lead the way for a number of reasons, including:

  • Alerting oncoming traffic of the approaching load
  • Gauging the width of road and overpasses – will the load fit?
  • Warning to the truck driver of approaching challenges

Your change should also have a lead flag car. Make sure someone is going ahead of the change to communicate it’s approach. This person should capture feedback – will the change fit? Also, the person must communicate any challenges they see to the driver of the change.

Follow Flag Car

The flag car following an oversized load alerts those approaching from behind of what is ahead. They also watch the load, as it proceeds down the road, ensuring nothing falls, loosens or breaks free.

Likewise, you should have someone trailing your change. What are the lessons learned? Where should you adapt your change to meet unforeseen conditions? How can you adjust you approach as you proceed? Furthermore, the person following your change must ensure the team does not revert to the old way of doing things. As the follow car cautions passing vehicles, so must your follower ensure team members adopt the change.

While great change management is not this simple, the concept is a good reminder for anyone involved in delivering changes to their workplace. The next time you seek to implement a change, remember the oversize load approach to change management.

Question: What other fundamentals should we remember as we implement change?


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Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

2 thoughts on “Change Management – the Oversize Load Approach”

  1. Ben,
    Love your metaphor.  I would just add an element of total engagement at the beginning of the trip that includes all of the people possibly affected by the oversized load moving from point A to point B.  Great change management includes engaging stakeholders throughout the process thereby reducing resistance and increasing adoption.

    1. Thanks Becky! I loved this addition. I suppose the metaphor could extend to highlight the planning ahead of the trip – though that does not really engage every car on the route… Thanks for sharing.

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