There’s a great memoir by the historian, Howard Zinn, entitled “You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train”. The book is about the civil rights movement and the social upheavals of the 1960’s and Zinn’s active support of the movement.
Zinn, if you don’t know him, was an historian, social critic and activist. He argued that during times of dissent and upheaval, particularly during the 1960’s that you had two choices to make. Get involved in the movement, or oppose the movement.
What’s key here, is that Zinn argued there were two forms of opposition. Those who adamantly opposed any new changes and those who stood by and did nothing. Zinn, in his memoir as the title implies, argued that once the train starts moving, being neutral isn’t an option.
The same can be said for movements of change in an organization. There isn’t neutral ground. You either get on board and support the change or you voice your dissent and work to reform it, or move on to another company.
If you’re neutral, you’re stuck in the middle. You’re not supportive of the efforts and you’re just going with the flow, or worse … you’re silently working to undermine the change efforts. As we know from physics, there’s a reaction to every action you take. The choice is yours to become a part of the change or to cause a problem for those seeking change.
When we’re working to support change in any organization, we look for change agents, and we look of those who we think would dissent. We do this because we want both voices at the table. We want people who are willing to take a stand, people who will bring real thought and passion into the dialogue. It helps us frame the change in a way that gives voice to divergent thought.
If your company is about to embark upon internal change to support your business strategy, or are in the midst of change now, don’t be stuck in the middle. If you have an issue with the direction of the change, speak up, voice your concerns and talk about how you want to see the change unfold.
If you’re leading the change, be open to the dissent and encourage others to get on board. The truth is simply that you really can’t be neutral on a moving train.
So take a stand, get on or get off, it’s your call … but do something!