Billiard – the ideal metaphor for the management of change

Changes always take place in a complex environment with various aspects. For controlling purpose boundaries of the areas to be changed are determined, e.g. where or when. The measures then take place within the described boundaries. In addition, the relevant components are selected and their interactions are specified. What products, programs, influences? Finally, change tools are defined. How to transfer from the initial state to the target state?

Billiard has similar aspects: the cushion defines the boundary; the balls the elements; the cue, the tip and the hands are the tools. The course of the billiard game is similar to business change. Therefore billiard is the ideal metaphor for change management.

In both cases change follows the same sequence.

  1. Fixed final state
    At the beginning, the desired final state has to be established in order to ensure that all measures have a common purpose – in billiard the sinking of the balls; in changing the creation of a new situation. Depending on the course, it is difficult to predict the next stop. Accordingly, the objectives should be formulated openly.
  2. Realized starting point
    To prepare, it is helpful to have a full overview of the current situation, inclusive the positions of the relevant elements – in the case of billiard, the balls are spread across the billiard table or already put in the pockets; in operational change, these are the aspects of the transformation, e.g. the processes, IT, organization or the soft factors such as the values ​​and beliefs. The initial situations are perceived differently by everyone.
  3. Elaborated direction
    The action requires a plan that defines the action sequence. The next impact determines the effect in the taken direction – provided that one is able to implement its plan correctly. In billiard, the direction of movements and the impact angles of the balls have to be considered before the thrust. In the course of realizing changes in day-to-day operations, the desired adaptations, which can be mutually dependent, are well planned – e.g. what are the effects of changing a procedure on the employees and their values? In both cases, however, everything is assumed before the action.
  4. Effective tools
    Poor tools require a large portion of luck to achieve the desired result. The quality of the tools affects accuracy. In billiard, the queue and the tip with the chalk as well as the quality of the table determine the behavior of the balls. The introduction of change deals with the soft factors and requires methods and procedures that effectively prepare the mental models and beliefs of those affected by the changes. In both cases, practice makes perfect.
  5. Actions
    The moment of doing is reached. It is now apparent whether the situation is correctly assessed, an effective direction is chosen, the tools are right, and one is capable of well utilizing everything. After the measures are started, they take their course and change the current situation. In billiard, the strength and impact of the tip determine the momentum and effect how the other balls are hit. In change management the clear picture of the target group, the appropriate measures and the support of the management team are crucial for the effect of the measures. In both cases, the dosage of the measure should be adjusted to the current situation, sometimes stronger or weaker.
  6. Keep on going
    The consequence of the measure is a new situation that requires an expansion of the plan. A single push will not result in the desired outcome. Therefore, the steps two to six are repeated until the target is reached. In billiard according to the rules, until all the balls are in the pockets. In business transformation, until the desired degree of change is achieved. Early abandonment is not useful in either case, since it is only possible to see at the end whether the activities have paid off.

With all precision you are not able to take into account all aspects. Since the smallest influences can change the result (see butterfly effect) it also always needs a portion of luck. In billiard the balls behave sometimes unexpectedly, since the fine differences are difficult to control and you are not able to influence after the thrust. In the development of the company, it is possible to readjust at an early stage during an ongoing action, if it is foreseeable that the effects go into the wrong direction. In any case, favorable conditions help.

Bottom line: Change management consists of a series of activities, which should eventually reach the desired end state. For example in billiard it is the sinking of all own balls as well as the black eight. There are always new positioning’s that require an adjustment of the plan. It is similar in the business transformation. Above all, it is important to implement the desired change. On the way to this, the measures always generate intermediate results, which require further steps. It is done when the new conditions are implemented. On the way, the activities of the billiard and the introduction of changes are similar. 1) determine the final state; 2) realize the initial situation; 3) elaborate the direction; 4) use effective tools; 5) actions; 6) keep on going. In the end, the desired result is reached. With its complexity billiard is the ideal metaphor for the management of change.

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