What Wins Over Change?
by Kevin D. Crone
Why don’t companies change, even when the facts show they should? Things like their lack of growth, lower margins, and difficulty making employees productive and successful. They’re getting less repeat business and they’re losing their big customers. Why do people still act as if nothing has changed even when they know better? These are tough facts but they still need to be addressed.
Fact One: Their biases win much of the time. Their minds are made up despite the facts staring at them. I recently heard a bright young executive tell me how so many in his international business network don’t believe they can change, even after listening to a group in their network explain how they increased their repeat business by 70% and how they grew 30% per year. Not too many believe they can change.
After helping organizations change for fifty years, it seems to me that John Wayne’s quote on the matter is appropriate. Although it’s meant to be funny, it isn’t. “Life is hard. It’s even harder if you’re stupid.”
Now that’s a rude thing to say. Are biased people really stupid? Well, listen to some over-the-top people talk politics! Listen to intelligent people describe how everybody has to focus on safety over enjoyment or fun. Oh, fun is over! Hate to bring you that news! Listen to business people still talk as if nothing much has changed in the structure of business over the last 15 years. They still want the good old days and believe their past methods will somehow miraculously come back. Maybe the word, “bias” is better than stupid. What do you think?
Fact Two: Markets change quickly today. Stable times aren’t the norm anymore. When things are stable, I guess we figure they’re normal. When normal, we conclude that we need to keep doing the same things we have always done. Of course, but do people actually expect that markets, customer demands, and employees needs are not changing? We don’t need caretaker managers any more. We need change leaders! Those who see what’s changing, get their teams to study it, listen for and reveal the bias without causing resentment, create new possibilities (this is important because people don’t do what seems impossible) and allow new ideas and methods to be spoken out loud, choose the best one and act with excitement. When these steps are followed, leaders and teams can handle the changes that are required. Where are those leaders?
Fact Three: In the absence of one of those leaders, maybe the only thing that shakes up biases is when it’s a do-it-or-die situation. (For example, quit doing this… Or you will die next month. Or when the banker says it and then that can be too late, or at the very least, tough slugging for a while.) A clear factual picture of what can happen if we don’t change is required but who would read it? I know people who died because they couldn’t, or wouldn’t make the health changes required. Don’t you?
Fact Four: As Bob, a successful businessman friend said to me yesterday, the fear of what we could lose can be more motivating than the possible gain. That’s the key – the possible gain. It can look risky because you haven’t experienced the benefits of change. And it may not work without a lot of resilience and commitment. It’s hard work and stressful to think out, plan, and engage a team to achieve all the changes you need. When the world changed so much since 2008, who needs more stress? I suggest that being in a struggling business can be stressful and hard work. So much as we try to avoid stress and work, I’m not sure doing nothing or trying to recreate the past is going to help with that. What’s required is an exciting picture of what’s possible, how it could play out and the benefits to everyone involved. And it should include your customers for it to work. A lack of a modern vision is usually what’s missing in most companies.
So biases, the lack of change leadership, no clear picture of what could happen if there isn’t change, an avoidance of stress and extra work, and a lack of a modern vision usually outweighs the change required to grow – so what? I’m sure there are more reasons that can effect change. Now what?
The questions are:
What do you want? What’s your present reality? Does it match? What’s missing and needed? What’s your required action?
This of course is up to you. To me, it’s too discouraging to work in a place that is treading water all day. It’s tiring and frustrating. Your business got to where it is by building on some great strengths. You can do it again.
Action is all there is. Why not you? Why not now?
Have a great week!
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