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A Blog by Art Dykstra


From My Pad to Yours is about leadership and other topics, and is written by Art Dykstra, the CEO of Trinity Services, Inc.

Shifts Happen

by Art Dykstra | Mar 15, 2017

My old pickup truck had a manual, three-speed transmission, and I miss it. To get going, you would put the shift lever in first, slowly let out the clutch, give it a little gas and begin your travels. Once you were moving, with the proper clutch coordination, you could shift into second.

With experience, you knew when to shift — the sound of the engine provided the signal — and after picking up speed, you once again pushed the clutch and shifted into third, the gear in which you could gain maximum and consistent speed. It was possible to stay in third for prolonged periods of time, but you always had to be ready to downshift to a lower gear when coming to a stop, making a sharp turn, or climbing a steep grade.

I miss the shifting because it was a continual reminder of the need to be mindful with respect to one’s speed, road conditions and how the truck was running. Getting there meant going through all three gears in the correct sequence. Attempting to start in the wrong gear resulted in jerks and lurches or in killing the engine.

First and second gears are reminiscent of organizational stages. You might be going through them slowly or quickly. But going through them carefully, skillfully and in the right order allows the driver to move into third — or the phase in which systems and people are in the proper balance for maximum productivity.

Some organizations are able to get into third very quickly and stay there for significant lengths of time. Other organizations have trouble shifting into second, or, once in second gear, never pick up enough speed to make the transition to third. They sometimes sputter and stop entirely. Occasionally, you will even find them going in reverse. Because organizational environments and circumstances are constantly changing, there are times when it is necessary to downshift, reduce speed, and check the condition of the vehicle and road before returning to cruising speed.

Today, my truck shifts by itself and, as they say, shifts happen. I am pleased with the convenience, but miss the organizational reminder that people and businesses need to start and complete their work in the appropriate gear, shift up and shift down as necessary, and maintain the proper speed for the conditions they are in.

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