Why Don’t You Want to Fix It?
Why don’t firms want to fix their problems and move on to bigger and better things? We’ve been consulting as The Collaborative now for fifteen years, and the partners collectively have over 60 years of business experience. We constantly see this inertia and this is the question that has nagged us the most over the years.
Managers and employees seem able, every time they are asked, to put their finger on exactly what’s wrong. Often times they even articulate the same things—although they may use different words! The truth is that the “problems” are usually not obscure and buried, they are out in the open and known to everyone.
So then, why isn’t every manager and every firm rushing to “fix” what’s wrong? After all, things can be fixed. In fact, there are answers and solutions aplenty.
We believe there are four primary reasons that people, and the firms they support won’t move from a current “stuck state”. See if you can identify with any of the following:
- The most common refrain we hear is that there’s not enough time to make changes. Companies are moving so fast and there aren’t enough hours in the day to get the “necessities” done, how can they make time to focus on such significant time-commitment kinds of issues? We agree that making change while you are doing your regular job is like changing your clothes standing up in the back of a fast-moving pick-up truck. It takes skill, balance and a real desire to get to a different place
- The managers, or person/people in charge won’t let themselves make a change for fear of what might happen to them in a new environment. Basic fear of change is a huge de-motivator for people and when managers suffer from it, it paralyzes the entire organization. It also creates a culture where it is “okay” to stick with the status quo and resist change. The leader”s style dictates what is acceptable behavior and will determine whether people in the lower ranks feel free to step out and try need things or feel paralyzed also for fear of making a change that won’t work.
- As an extension of no. 2, the firm may evolve into a place where the culture supports the status quo. People get familiar with the culture and its inherent problems—“the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know” response. This philosophy keeps firms in a limbo state because they are comfortable with whom they are and what they have. At least “my pain is my pain” is the underlying message here.
- The managers can’t envision change—they can’t “see” that the firm really could be different and the problems could be fixed. They can”t imagine or think about a different way of being. This is their reality.
Hard to swallow, we know. It’s why many, many firms stay stuck and eventually shrink, merge or go away. It’s hard to make change when change isn’t what the folks in charge desire, when the time doesn’t allow you to or when the culture resists change. So, what to do?
While it can be hard to sometimes look at the role you play as the leader, or as an employee participating in the culture—it can be beneficial to have an outsider take a look at your firm and your philosophies. Having a third party to “reflect” back to you what needs to be changed can be very helpful and refreshing. It can be difficult to face the problems and the fear associated with changing them but if you want yours to be a high performing firm, you have to face the fears and make moves in spite of them. It’s challenging, but in the end it is very rewarding!