Fast Zebras Drive Change

In a Harvard Business Review blog post, Jon Katzenbach and Zia Khan introduce us to the concept of a fast zebra: someone who, “can quickly absorb information, adapt to new challenges, and get people aligned in the right direction… They are the people who can skirt around or blast through the kind of gridlock found not only in the political spectrum, but in organizations of every stripe.”

Why should you care about fast zebras?  Because if you’re driving change, you’re a fast zebra.

How I do I know you’re a fast zebra?  Because I’m a fast zebra.  I scored 6 of 6 on the Fast Zebra test (yes, I’m competitive even with online tests).

If I’m a fast zebra, and you’re driving change like I am, then you’re a fast zebra too.

Let me prove it to you.

According to the authors fast zebras:

  1. Use street smarts to get around stubborn obstacles, draw on personal relationships to solve problems, and use pride to motivate behaviors. Driving change is choosing a change for yourself and clearing the obstacles for others to internally choose the change too. If you’re driving change, you’ve got #1 down.
  2. Use what works to get their ideas implemented, not sticking just to plans or meetings or formal structures. Yep, sounds like the driving change I know.  Why would you stop behind an obstacle or process and passively wait for someone else to move it?  Who’s got time for that when they’re driving change?  Answer: No one.  Continue on my fast zebras.
  3. Instill pride in people accomplishing something important. Pride is byproduct of driving change, not the goal.  When you’re driving change, you instill (I almost wrote install – ha!) pride in others when you celebrate their small wins.  Wins keep their motivation and momentum up and your change moving.  The pride in those wins is the fuel that keeps their motivation and momentum up when a dip comes and the wins are harder to come by.
  4. Get everyone to buy into your values by involving them in the process, listening to them and valuing the input. When you’re driving change you get the buy in by asking for others to join you.
  5. They don’t wait for the pace of formal processes, instead leaning on like-minded colleagues, add pressure in the right places and create new ways to break the remaining obstacles. When you’re driving change, avoiding or destroying obstacles is part of everything you do.  If there’s a way through or around the obstacles, you’ll find it.  Finding the route is the only way to keep the change moving.
  6. They make more successes by finding motivators in their midst, train them, deploy them and cherish them as they spread the joy. This trait is by far the best.  If this weren’t a part of driving change, why would I write this blog?

Fast zebras aren’t ordering others around.  They are creating value, finding the holes, running over and around the obstacles to reach their objective and they’re gathering others to them as they take this fast paced journey.

Fast zebras drive change.

I like being a fast zebra.  Care to run with me? Why not try?

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