SENSE MAKING AS A DRIVING
FORCE IN CHANGE AT OILCO
Readers are eighty-five pages into this learning history before they read explicitly what they have sensed all along, namely, "planned change is never monolithic." This realization hit OilCo's CEO much earlier (page 131) when he acknowledged "that he didn't have the skills by himself to turn this ship around. He would need a lot of help." Both observations about change can be combined with an even more powerful image to suggest just what the top people at OilCo are up against when they try to transform the firm. This image, which retains the CEO's nautical analogy, comes from nothing less than Tolstoy War and Peace.
In quiet and untroubled times it seems to every administrator that it is only by his efforts that the whole population under his rule is kept going, and in this consciousness of being indispensable every administrator finds the chief reward of his labor and efforts. While the sea of history remains calm, the ruler-administrator in his frail bark, holding on with a boat hook to the ship of the people and himself moving, naturally imagines that his efforts move the ship he is holding on to. But as soon as a storm arises and the sea begins to heave and the ship to move, such a delusion is no longer possible. The ship moves independently with its own enormous motion, the boat hook no longer reaches the moving vessel, and suddenly the administrator, instead of appearing a ruler and a source of power, becomes an insignificant, useless, feeble man. 1