Change Management and the Lily Pond

Pond Apocalypse

Have you every considered the humble lily pond?

Looking at the top of the pond you see clear blue water inter-dispersed with a variety of flat circular green lilies bobbing gently in harmony with the movements of the water. Should there be any sudden changes or displacements in the pond, the lilies move accordingly, the larger the change, the greater the movement.

As you explore deeper into the pond, the water becomes more murky with various weeds and algae until you finally reach the bottom where there will be a layer of thick black sludge that entraps any items that may visit.

The view from the bottom of the pond is in extreme contrast with the clear waters that percolate around the green lilies.

This got me thinking….let us now consider the impact of a change management program in the business environment and its correlation with the lily pond.

Those in senior management positions (the lilies on the pond surface) are usually more involved with the change process and have a greater appreciation of the overall business objective. This understanding assists in enabling them to cope with any turbulence during the process.

However, as you go lower down the corporate structure, their knowledge of the business objectives of the change program becomes less apparent. Here these employees have less visibility of the process and are typically focused on survival (keeping their job) as their environment becomes more harsh and tough (in the black pond sludge).

For the change management process to be successful, the “water in the pond needs to be continually in motion” and any detrimental “plant life” should to be removed, diluted, or transformed by the cleansing action of the water currents to avoid black pond sludge. Internal communication within the organisation is the key to keeping the “water in motion” thereby ensuring that everyone in the pond benefits from the continually moving currents.

So, just like in the pond where it is important to keep the water moving, so it is in a change management program to have communications that reach all levels of the organisation.

Leave a comment


  1. champton2013

     /  July 18, 2013

    Love the metaphor. In my experience, some of the pond scum is management hiding from the need for change and slowing down the currents, lacking belief in the business objectives. They build up the scum by resisting change and distorting communications. If they don’t understand or believe in the ‘why’ for change, they can slowly sink to the bottom. This has a serious impact on the health of the organisation as they attempt to poison other lilies on the way down.

  2. Yep, have to look after those lillies!

  3. Maggie Goldie

     /  July 28, 2013

    Hi Steve,
    I like this analogy to change! Here is another take on the same issue. I have often likened corporate change to the wind passing through a field of wheat – at the top where the ‘big brass’ sit there is much movement and churning around. But at the bottom of the stalks there is very little movement and the roots remain static. When the corporate wind is creating all the movement and change at the top, it would be intelligent to reflect on the roots and the base of the stalks to consider the reasons why they are still in place and holding up the frantically waving heads of wheat at the top!


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