When is it Pointless to Change?


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Change is an inevitable part of existence.  We change as people.  We change as businesses.  We change whether we want to or not.

Adapt or perish.  Evolve or become extinct.

However, changing because you think you should change because “change is good” is very foolish.  I like change, but I don’t change because changing is expected.

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Many people are jumping on the change bandwagon because that is what is expected in today’s business.  If you’re not changing, you’re falling behind.  I disagree.

Change is good for certain things at certain times.  But if you change the wrong things at the wrong times, change can be disastrous.

Let’s examine some conditions that might be ripe for change.

  1. A process or system is not working like it was intended or is getting suboptimal results.
  2. A step-change is needed that cannot be accomplished with existing programs.
  3. There is a steady, negative trend that doesn’t seem to be recovering.

I am a big Chicago Blackhawks fan.  The head coach, Joel Quenneville, will change his lines when he sees that one of the above conditions is met.  However, if he is getting the results he needs (i.e. he is winning games) he will keep a line the same and allow them to gel and evolve naturally.

If none of these conditions exist, don’t create a change.  If you are looking for steady improvement over time, you should consider having a continuous improvement (CI) effort as part of the normal operation of your company.  Continuous improvement is not change as I am defining it.  Continuous improvement should be part of the culture.  It should be baked into the ideas and processes that run your operation.  Implementing CI is change.  Executing CI is not.

In Jim Collins’ Good to Great he talks about a “20-mile March” that is an unchanging goal that is inherent in the way that successful businesses view progress.  In some of his examples, these companies did not change their march for decades.

Change is hard.  It requires time and resources and is unpredictable.  If change is not necessary, it is an investment that has a lot of risk with little reward.

We should all change as it is required.  And we should be successful at managing change and take the time to educate ourselves on what it takes to implement change effectively.  But don’t be led down the path of change if it is not something that will give you the payback needed for the investment.  Be smart and lead effectively.  That requires positioning your team for wins.

What are conditions you have seen that require change?

How has needless change impacted your life?


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