The Emergence of the Ubiquitous Electric Scooter
I discovered a new way to get around the streets of San Diego a few months ago. While on vacation with my family, I rented and rode my first electric scooter (also known as an e-scooter). If you live or work in an urban downtown area, you have probably seen a collection of e-scooters parked on the sidewalk and scattered around street corners. Sometimes these scooters are knocked over and block your path. I was intrigued by this new mode of transportation and did some research to learn more about this trend.
About two years ago, a few scooter startups opened for business and silently placed their scooters throughout the streets of cities like San Francisco and Santa Monica, California. Without a big marketing campaign, people quickly discovered how easily they could download an app, rent, and ride a scooter as long as they wanted. People could leave the scooter parked at any location without a requirement to return the scooter to the original point of rental.
Early adopters welcomed scooters as a new form of micro-transit, a solution to less pollution and fewer cars on the road. This demographic saw scooters as the best way to complete the “last mile” of their daily commute after already using transportation like bus and rail.
However, opposition emerged almost as quickly as the scooter revolution appeared on street corners. The electric scooters descended on cities without any permits or permission. People who rode scooters often rode on sidewalks and disregarded traffic rules which created hazards to the rider and pedestrians. In addition, scooters were often left parked or lying on streets which blocked foot traffic and looked junky.
In response, city governments and citizens in cities like San Francisco and Santa Monica California complained loudly and temporarily banned scooters. They demanded that cities take the time to develop and approve city ordinances that would regulate scooters and restore order in the streets and sidewalks for pedestrian and rider. As a result, city governments and a small number of scooter companies worked together and reached an agreement on how and where scooters would be allowed to operate. These changes brought about positive and sustainable improvements and today scooter riders, city governments, and pedestrians find greater harmony in sharing their city streets.
Parallels with Leading Effective Organizational Change
Sometimes, leaders in organizations attempt to introduce a disruptive change on employees with no (or very little) planning, communication, or involvement of those who will be impacted by the change. As a result, people are left unaware and wondering what just happened and why. When organizational change is silently “dropped off overnight and left on street corners” with no explanation, people may temporarily “test drive the change”, but then carelessly discard the change when they run into problems.
People often easily give up on a change when leaders have not yet clearly defined or communicated how the change aligns with overall culture, strategy, and daily processes. Also, people will often disregard a change when they do not feel any ownership in the successful outcome of the change.
From this experiment, scooter companies learned they are better off in the long run to ask permission than forgiveness when bringing their new form of micro-transportation to busy streets and urban cities. So too, wise organizational leaders will involve people early that will be impacted by the change and have a stake in the successful outcome of the change. These actions will allow leaders to gather important information, create buy in for the change, and better ensure the change can be designed and implemented to meet the needs and interests of groups impacted by the change.