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Letters to a Young Manager

The Burning Platform, #366
LTYM > Leadership and Values

Dear Adam,
You asked about the new restructuring that has begun at your company and the jobs that are at risk. These are very unsettling times. “What is the new analogy,” was your challenge?

I read a story about Nokia, which faced a huge change in their market with a dire threat to their mobile business. When it was apparent how much the company needed to change, their new CEO sent the following letter to employees[1]:

“There is a pertinent story about a man who was working on an oil platform in the North Sea. He woke up one night from a loud explosion, which suddenly set his entire oil platform on fire. In mere moments, he was surrounded by flames. Through the smoke and heat, he barely made his way out of the chaos to the platform’s edge. When he looked down over the edge, all he could see were the dark, cold, foreboding Atlantic waters.

As the fire approached him, the man had mere seconds to react. He could stand on the platform, and inevitably be consumed by the burning flames. Or, he could plunge 30 meters in to the freezing waters. The man was standing upon a “burning platform,” and he needed to make a choice.

He decided to jump. It was unexpected. In ordinary circumstances, the man would never consider plunging into icy waters. But these were not ordinary times – his platform was on fire. The man survived the fall and the waters. After he was rescued, he noted that a “burning platform” caused a radical change in his behaviour.

We too, are standing on a “burning platform,” and we must decide how we are going to change our behaviour”

So when you are faced with a change that is so great, you have to jump. That doesn’t necessarily mean packing your bags and leaving. But it does means that the way things were is no more. The platform is gone. Change is not an option.

[1] Stephen Elop, “Full Text: Nokia CEO Stephen Elop’s ‘Burning Platform’ Memo,” The Wall Street Journal Blog, Feb 9, 2011,
Also See


Sometimes the change is so great, you have to jump

Discussion Questions:

1) What are the burning platforms you have seen or expereinced?
2) How did you (or they) jump?

For Further Reading:

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