Maintenance Work / Change Management

Crossing the chasm: Taking on large change initiatives at work

"Hike the Grand Canyon in one day? What could go wrong?" asks Thomas Wilk.

By Thomas Wilk, editor in chief

Several articles in this month’s issue of Plant Services address the challenges involved with taking on very large change initiatives at work:

  • In Asset Manager, David Berger outlines how to use your CMMS to bridge the gap between daily operations and long-term business strategy.
  • In Automation Zone, guest columnist Dawn Cappelli maps out how to cover cybersecurity gaps in an age of IT-OT convergence.
  • Leading2Lean’s Bob Argyle suggests how maintenance and operations can overcome their respective silos and move toward stronger partnerships.

In each of these cases, the writers draw from their personal experience with projects that required them to cross fairly large professional chasms. Let me add one more story – one that started as a physical challenge but grew quickly into something more.

The idea started with an article I read in which the author successfully managed to hike the 26-mile width of the Grand Canyon, going from South Rim to North Rim – in one day. About 50% of the article captured the author’s planning and training, and about 45% more tracked his downward progress and his long trek across the canyon floor.

Then, all of a sudden, only one or two final paragraphs recorded his trip up and out. Hmm. What the heck did this guy experience, where words failed him in the end?

There was only one thing to do: find someone who wanted to know the answer as much as I did, and head west.

In this case my friend Vic stepped up and offered to set up a training plan for us if I worked out the travel logistics. We set the hike for early October, after the worst of the summer heat and just before snow closed the North Rim for the year. We took practice hikes of 6, 10, 14, 18, 20, and 26 miles. We studied our calorie burn and packed enough food to make the crossing via a specific route without running out or overloading our packs.

And then ... we crossed the chasm in one day.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure the original author was silent about the end of the hike because he didn’t want to admit to any rookie mistakes. Vic and I most definitely made two – for one, we neglected to bring headlamps, figuring our speed would get us out before dark. It didn’t, thanks to our second error of not spending a few days acclimatizing to the thinner air at each rim, which slowed us considerably on the way out.

We also were humbled by the way other hikers were generous with their advice and optimism. That sort of openness is difficult to capture in words. Vic and I had a plan and we had each other for support, but we would not have completed the journey without the goodwill provided by fellow hikers. I often hope we offered enough back in return.

Is it possible to cross professional chasms in one day? No, but the more people you inspire along the way, the faster and farther you’ll go.