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The Marathon Effect


When any change initiative is announced, the person making the announcement is way ahead of the people hearing about it.

They already know about it. They've had time to process what’s about to happen, how it will affect them and how they'd like to present it to others. This means they're days, weeks, even months ahead of others in considerations surrounding the change.

Ugh! Not another post about how hard "change" is...that's exhausting!

You're right. It's often exhausting. Kind of like running a marathon.

Why do we find it so hard to move toward a preferred vision of the future?

Starting Line!

In marathon races the elite runners start first followed by waves of runners spaced out by as much as 20 minutes to reduce congestion. This means the elite runners finish and get their trophies while people in latter waves are still gutting it out.

This spread is the marathon effect.

In any change initiative, we can’t avoid the marathon effect. By being aware of it we can replace expecting instant acceptance with the sensitivity that others need to go through their own process. Just because we’ve moved on to the next issue after the announcement doesn’t mean others aren’t still struggling with it. They necessarily need more time.

Read More

Be Aware of the Marathon Effect When Leading Change

Change vs Transition by William Bridges


Diffusion of Innovations

Innovators; Early Adopters; Early Majority; Late Majority; Laggards

You're familiar with these terms. The point of the labels is to realize where we sit on the scale when showing up for what we believe in. An early adopter could be a fast marathon runner and adopt a new idea quickly. A slower runner might be a laggard in adopting that same idea. We all move at a different pace based on our beliefs AND our values.

Innovation vs. Continuity

You can't have the breakneck speed of innovation without continuity. People won't know what they should be doing without some clarity. But we need innovative changes to stay viable. Hang on to your values and beliefs. While balance may not be possible with these seemingly opposing forces, if both aren't present you're setting the organization up to disappear.

Finish Line

Awareness of how the "wave" of adoption rates affect people helps us navigate any change process. Think about a marathon the next time you roll out anything new. You’ll be glad you did and so will the team!

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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and membership funding. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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