Movement: A culture of constant personal and corporate growth and improvement is enabled through effective change management, self-development and a leadership pipeline

The Burning Platform – A Metaphor for Organizational Change

“It was fry or jump, so I jumped.” — Andy Mochan

In a previous post, Motivation – Dissatisfaction; No Dissatisfaction, No Motivation, we shared Andy Mochan’s “burning platform” story to illustrate the four dissatisfactions that motivate organizational change.

It is a story first told by Daryl Conner in his books, Managing at the Speed of Change and Leading at the Edge of Chaos.

In July, 1988 a disastrous explosion and fire occurred on the Piper Alpha oil-drilling platform in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. 163 crew and rescuers lost their lives making it the worst catastrophe in the history of North Sea exploration.

One of the few who survived was Andy Mochan, a superintendent on the rig. From the hospital he told of being awakened by the explosion. With fire all around him he made it to the ledge where 15 stories beneath him oil was on fire and twisted steel littered the water.

Yet, he made the decision to jump.

When asked by reporters why he jumped, he said “It was either fry or jump.”

Andy Did a Lot of Things Right

Further examination of the story shows Andy did a lot of things right that helped him survive his perilous ordeal. The steps he took can instruct us in leading change in the local church.

  1. Andy didn’t want to jump but the price was too high not to. Too frequently church leaders lack the necessary resolve to face the risk and uncertainty of major change until the price gets too high not to undertake change. Not all of us are as fortunate as Andy. Sometimes we wait too late to jump into the sea of change. It is good for leaders to give heed to Jack Welch’s famous quote, “Change before you have to!”
  2. Andy stripped off his shoes and clothes. Andy instinctively knew he had to limit resistance and jettison excess weight. In leading change in the local church leaders have to get naked and vulnerable, admitting their own fears to their followers. Leaders must expose then eliminate any personal or organizational baggage that might weigh down change efforts.
  3. Andy entered the water correctly. At a height of 150 feet, Andy would have perished if his angle of entry had been off only a fraction. How Andy entered the water made all the difference. How leaders initiate the organizational change process is critical. Those first steps often determine whether the change initiative will survive. 
  4. Andy stayed near the burning debris. Andy knew he had only 20 minutes to survive in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. By floating near the debris Andy was able to keep warm and survive until help could arrive. In initiating organizational change, leaders must face the fire of opposition. Running away from opposition spells certain death to the change initiative.
  5. Andy floated to conserve energy. Andy knew he didn’t have the strength or endurance to fight the waves and currents until he was rescued. Leading change is a long haul full of resistance that wears on a leader. Change leaders must at times pull away to rest, relax and to regroup.

Leading organizational change requires more than sufficient commitment and resolve. Andy’s story illustrates it takes the right techniques as well. Check out these other blog posts that provide tools and techniques for leading and managing healthy change in the church:

Short Term Low Goals: A Little by Little Approach to Change

Circles Rather Than Pyramids: How Small Groups Increase Acceptance of Change

The Ceremonial Approach to Leading Change

By the Inch it is a Cinch – The Incremental Approach to Change

The North Wind Theory – Creating a Desire for Change

What Is The Change Curve And Why Should I Bother To Understand It?

Pyrrhic Victories – A Deterrent to Lasting Change

Short Term Wins Create Momentum for Change

The Observer Effect On Leading Change

Psychological Hydraulic Fracking – An Unpredictable Instrument of Change

The Roller Coaster Effect in Leading Change

Attitude Stair-Steps: Change Results From a Series of Attitudinal Changes

Relative Deprivation – A Deterrent to Healthy Change

Motivation – Dissatisfaction; No Dissatisfaction, No Motivation

Three Reasons People Resist Change

The Head and Heart of Leading Change

Empowerment As An Agent of Change

The Psychology of Change in the Church

An 8 Step Process for Organizational Change

An 8 Step Biblical Process for Leading Change


Posted on February 10, 2015

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5