On our third, yes, third (long story) visit to the Magic Kingdom, I recall standing on Main Street waiting for that daily Disney pièce de résistance: the can’t-miss parade ritual. I mean, c’mon. Who doesn’t love a Disney parade? Look at all these people eagerly awaiting the spectacle. We were up and at ‘em bright and early that morning, and by this time had been screaming our way through rides and downing elaborate ice cream treats for almost seven hours.

As we waited for the festivities to begin, Baby Jake (5) decided to cry uncle. He had had enough. Done, done, done. Yep, he clearly did not know there’s no whining at Disney. Surely it’s on the “Do Not” list of rules posted somewhere, right below unbuckling on a roller coaster or something. No, no nooo, I thought. This cannot be. This is where those magical memories happen. We couldn’t possibly leave now – the magical memories hadn’t happened yet! I laid out the plan in my non-negotiable voice. We were going to watch the parade, and it was going to be fantastically amazing, and by the way, here’s some water and a snack. Now shush.

Nope. He wanted to go back. And would not stop crying. I was equally annoyed and disgusted that the moment I’d envisioned was not going to happen. That instead Jake’s only memory of this day would be a miserable standoff thanks to the big meanie (me). Eventually, I picked him up, but he refused to watch the parade, burying his head into my shoulder as if to say, “I have to stay for obvious reasons, but I hereby officially deny you the satisfaction of having fun. Take that, Big Meanie Lady.” Another great Robertson family moment. Hope someone got a shot of both of our sulky faces. One for the fridge for sure.

Driving back with the boys zonked out in the back seat, I mentioned to my husband Dan how disappointed I was at how the day ended. He said, “I think he just had to deep cycle.”


A former pilot, Dan explained that to keep an airplane’s batteries at peak performance, you need to regularly drain them completely down to zero and then charge them back up. Otherwise they wear out sooner than they should. Deep cycling.

The same goes for pre-schoolers I guess – sometimes you just need to let them wind themselves all the way down and then give them a nap, some food and water and a hug to recharge them.

Organizations go through deep-cycling too. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.   Leaders need to be fully tuned in, so they recognize when the group needs to power itself down in order to rebuild for sustainability. The cues aren’t always obvious. (There may or may not be whining.) And sometimes the marketplace forces your hand. I’ve been both an advocate for pre-emptive deep cycling, and an unwitting victim of it just landing in my lap. It’s essential to recognize the need for a deep cycle before it just happens through market conditions or revenue erosion. Recognizing an incoming deep cycle and approaching it with a clear plan of attack eviscerates the fear and panic.

Deep cycling takes many forms. When calculated, it purposefully allows an organization to transition to a different, more productive place – evolving from what was being done to what will be done. That transition can require a shift in vision, in mind and skill set, and likely a talent re-shuffle. So even though the conversion is ultimately for positive purpose, it involves immediate change and that can yield collateral damage, which is tough on morale because human beings resist change – even if the status quo is painful. The fact is, people don’t initiate change for themselves until staying put becomes exponentially more excruciating than making a move. Intentional deep cycling is not for the faint of heart. It demands a healthy ego swallow and a lot of painful decisions that, yes, the marketplace will chatter about. But it beats the brutality of an unintended one, hands down.
An unintended deep cycle occurs when organizations fail to adjust their sails to prevailing winds. They get behind in innovation. They lose talent through attrition. They can no longer articulate their true purpose. Then a chaotic scramble to regain ground ensues. Sometimes to a lethal end.

So how do you know if you need to deep cycle?

  • When financial forecasting looks unprofitable for more than two rolling quarters
  • When bickering and complaining supersede teamwork and support
  •  When new business is not converting on a consistent basis
  • When you can’t describe in a sentence the value you bring to your teams and the market
  • When exceptional talent is walking out the door

And how do you go about doing it right?
For a successful, intentional deep cycle:

  • Have a clearly defined vision and path forward.
    • Share with key team members.
  • Get alignment.
    • Key team members need to be on board, or they need to get off.
  • Critically evaluate your talent pool against the forward vision, and make hard  decisions.
    • This doesn’t have to be inhumane, but it has to be done for the sake of the  organization. Be brave.
  • Share the vision, action plan and desired outcomes.
    • Do this early and often. We forget that many aren’t privy to the conversations  happening at the leadership level. The cycle can be protracted so it’s important to keep people inspired.
  •  Enlist the support of everyone on your team.
    • Not only do many hands make light work, teamwork galvanizes and individuals feel more vested.
  • Celebrate victories big and small that support the vision. •
    • Pat some backs. Raise some glasses. Everyone needs those moments to stay  engaged and motivated.
  • Continue to track success and calibrate.
    • Organizations are organic. Staying static is not an option.

The beauty of a successful deep cycle is memories are (thankfully) short on the pain of the process, and the successful outcomes are what remain. Turns out, Jake wasn’t scarred for life by the breakdown at Disney. The fact is, he doesn’t even really remember the trip at all. (Unsolicited advice):  Don’t bring kids to Disney before they’re ten.