The tide had washed ashore hundreds of starfish. They would soon die of exposure.  Chris was tossing the starfish, one at a time, back into the ocean, in a slow, meditative movement.

“Why do you bother?” her friend asked, overwhelmed by the sheer number of starfish dying. “It won’t make any difference.”

Chris stopped for a moment, looking at the starfish in her hand. She replied, “It will to this one.”

[Author unknown, but greatly appreciated!  If you or anyone you know has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as appropriate.]

In my OD work, I am predominantly concerned with building the capability of organizations to execute their strategic plans.  This almost always has me wading into structure, policies, processes … speaking of integration, of alignment…

It’s all about the complexity of the system.


I admit: I need to be reminded that it is also about the simplicity of caring.

Structures, processes and the like don’t say “thank you.”  They don’t express an affirming empathy for a customer’s exasperation.  They don’t put aside everything when an associate needs someone to listen.

Ultimately, it isn’t the system that performs.  It only enables.

People perform.  And people who care, make a difference!

Not rocket science, I know… but, for leaders — and organizational consultants (ahem) — it is important not to lose this perspective.

And aren’t we all — regardless of our roles — leaders?  So when, in the daily ebb and flow of working, we see others needing a hand, and if while helping we wonder if we’re really making a difference; don’t we have the opportunity to answer much like Chris tells her friend in the story as she’s about to save the starfish in her hand —

“It will, to this one.”