A Metaphor for Managing Change
Updated: Jan 21
I recently attended a presentation from a top consulting firm, where the speaker made the case for various digital transformation strategies using the gyroscope as the central metaphor throughout the presentation. I found the metaphor to be powerful and wanted to explore it further within a change management context.
A gyroscope, similar to a children's top but more advanced, is a device with a spinning wheel or rotor that is mounted on a pivot point. The spinning motion of the rotor creates a force called angular momentum, which allows the gyroscope to maintain its orientation and resist changes in direction. Gyroscopes are prevalent in everyday technologies such as smartphones, drones, gaming controllers, cameras, robotics, hoverboards, airplanes, and satellites.
A gyroscope needs to keep spinning in order to maintain its orientation. Similarly, an organization needs to continuously adapt and change in order to stay competitive and achieve its goals. Both rely on continuous motion and change in order to maintain balance. Without continuous motion and change, both a gyroscope and an organization would lose momentum, balance, and become ineffective. Just as a gyroscope must be able to adjust its spinning speed and pivot point in order to maintain balance, leaders must be able to anticipate and respond to resistance and uncertainty In order to effectively manage organizational change.
The comparison between a gyroscope and change management is useful, but it's limited. A gyroscope is relatively easy to control and manipulate: the speed of the rotor and the direction of the pivot point can be adjusted in order to achieve a desired balance or orientation. In contrast, organizational change management is a complex process that is subject to many different variables and factors. It is difficult to predict or control the outcome of change initiatives, and the process often involves a great deal of uncertainty. Additionally, while a gyroscope is designed to resist changes in direction and maintain its orientation, organizations and individuals within them often resist change, which can be a significant obstacle in effective organizational change management.
Both systems are complex and subject to a number of variables, but by understanding the principles of balance through continuous motion and change, leaders and managers can more effectively navigate the challenges of organizational change, without spinning out of control.
Matthew Baker is a Change Management and Learning & Development professional with over a decade of experience delivering user-centered graphic, audio, and instructional design, as well as project management. He holds degrees in Instructional Design, Applied Physics, and Organizational Management.