What I learned about driving change from a 24-hour clock

A 24-hour clock has the numbers 13 through 24 written inside the typical clock dial to allow someone to rapidly read PM times as their 24-time equivalents, e.g., 1 pm is 1300 and 10 pm is 2200.

A few weeks ago I noticed a 24-hour clock just like this one on a conference room wall.  I noticed the clock and thought, “How interesting!”

Why did I have such an excited response to a clock?

Because the clock is an example of driving change.

Let me elaborate.

If I calculate how often a reference to time comes up in meetings in the conference room per week, and reduce that by the times that are between midnight and noon (and therefore the same in both systems) I can’t get more than a few dozen to a few hundred repetitions of this problem each week.  Add on to that the clock saves human mind processing time of mere seconds per occurrence and we’re looking at calculated “savings” from installing the clock as too small to count and too small to report.

Yet someone felt compelled to put up this clock and took all the actions to get it in place.

I find that fascinating.

The problem isn’t flashy and exciting; it’s localized and small.

The problem doesn’t have a big monetary justification; it matters to whom it matters to.

If someone had waited for “management buy-in” of the solution how long would they have waited; instead they just installed the clock.

Not every change takes a long time, impacts a lot of people, or changes the world; and that’s okay.

Driving small change–even if only to remove a small snag that makes a small difference for a small group of people–matters too.

End note: Just a few days ago, I was discussing the times for a conference and I naturally defaulted to using military times for the start and end times (e.g., 0800 to 1530).  I could tell from the pause in the conference center employee’s voice that she was unfamiliar with military time. I translated the times to 8 am to 3:30 pm.  When I finished giving her the times she said, “Thanks for translating that for me.”  With all the military folks she deals with, maybe I should tell her about getting one of these clocks.

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