Before Martin Luther King had a dream, E.D. Nixon had a plan. It was a good plan, too. Nixon thought he could make huge strides in the struggle for racial equality in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama by orchestrating a boycott of the city bus system–both a bastion of segregation and a huge money-maker for the city.
He had a sound strategy and a thorough plan. But it was proving difficult to get the masses of African-American bus riders to go along with the change plan, and actually stop riding the buses. Just like countless team leaders and project managers in today’s organizations, Nixon had all the dominoes lined up, but he couldn’t get them to start falling.
Then one morning in the early spring of 1955, a courageous young woman took a seat on a city bus. After the bus filled up, the driver ordered her to move so that a white woman could take her seat. When she refused, the irritated bus driver then flagged down two police officers who grabbed the young lady and hauled her off to jail. And the rest of the story is history.
Today, everyone knows that Rosa Parks’ decision to stay seated on that bus inspired a domino effect of change that tore down the walls of racial segregation in America.There is just one problem with that story.
Rosa Parks wasn’t there.