Cassandra, in Greek mythology, was the woman gifted with prophecy, the ability to hear or see the future. Apollo, denied her love, placed a curse upon her so no one would believe her predictions. Her tragedy was her deep understanding and her powerlessness to make it known.
As you work at driving change, as you struggle toward Deming’s system of profound understanding, you may find yourself joining Cassandra in her curse. The more you understand the immediate and future consequences of a change (or not making the change), the more it hurts to watch people bring about a failed future they could have avoided.
I think I heard Cassandra’s pain in Professor John Kotter’s voice when I heard him speak in March. I can imagine the agony of traveling the world and finding many good organizations with great purpose squandering their noble mission on false urgency and failed, fake change. The thought of the waste makes me weep.
It seems the tragedy’s only antidote is the resolve to not give in to the powerlessness. The curse must not win.
As you drive change you’ll see many people and many organizations crush themselves against rocks they could have avoided. You’ll have tried to be their lighthouse, but they won’t see your light.
You must fight Cassandra’s curse. You must do what you can, with what you have, where you are, even if that is sometimes not enough.
Today, I feel like Cassandra. Tomorrow, I’ll feel better.
I’m going to keep driving change. Will you?