16 November 2009 • 7:00 am



I recently came across an article about earthquake aftershocks:  Earthquakes Actually 19th Century Aftershocks.  I’m fascinated by all things earth science and started to read.

“Aftershocks happen after a big earthquake because the movement on the fault changed the forces in the earth that act on the fault itself and nearby. Aftershocks go on until the fault recovers.”

In other words, after a large shift, aftershocks are felt as everything around it rearranges itself to accommodate the new state.

What a great analogy for change in organizations!

Here’s one image that comes up:  after making the push for a large change, you have to wait and see what else is disrupted as the organization and the people in it try to rearrange to accommodate the switch.  In that case the aftershocks are the fixes we come up with the handle the unexpected impact of the change.

It turns out that the slower an earthquake fault moves, the longer it takes to dampen the effects of a large earthquake.  While aftershocks on the San Andreas subside after 10 years, aftershocks along the New Madrid fault are still occurring 200 years after its last big quake.

It seems to me that a fast-moving fault like the San Andreas is basically leaving aftershocks behind.  The aftershocks don’t happen later because the fault has already moved again.  It doesn’t have to accommodate to the old-new state because there is a new-new state.  It would be like upgrading to a new IT system before everyone was trained on the old one.  You wouldn’t keep training people on the old system just because you hadn’t trained everyone yet.

It’s not that fast-moving fault lines are particularly resilient and bouncing back to normal quickly; instead their rate of change is just too fast to keep up with.

An interesting phenomenon, one you’d want to avoid with organization change.

How is this playing out in your organization?

(Editor’s note: This post first appeared in the Change Starts Here blog at

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