There is broad agreement that cells reconfigure their microtubules through rapid bouts of assembly and disassembly, as described by the mechanism known as dynamic instability. However, many cell types have complex patterns of microtubule organization that are not entirely explicable by dynamic instability. There is growing evidence that microtubules can be moved into new patterns of organization by forces generated by molecular motor proteins. Studies on several cell types support a model called 'cut and run' in which long microtubules are stationary, but relatively short microtubules are mobile. In this model, cells mobilize their microtubules by severing them into short pieces, using enzymes such as katanin and spastin that break the lattice of the microtubule polymer. After being reorganized, the short microtubules can once again elongate and lose their mobility. Microtubule severing is also crucial for a variation of 'cut and run' in which the severed microtubules are reorganized by means of treadmilling.