We resist change for a lot of reasons, including our personal perceptions of ourselves and organizational realities. We see ourselves as restraining forces, reining in a wild horse. We’re protectors determined to fight or flee while maintaining the satisfactory status quo.
Why? Because we’re satisfied with the status quo. Change costs money. Change costs time. Change costs energy. And we’re all about counting and cutting costs. It’s more satisfying to resist change because what already is has been working well enough. So we embrace what we know and resist what we don’t know.
In business, cost is counted in columns in neat, technologically devised accounting programs, and we’re concerned with a bottom line etched in stone that seems to improve only in one direction—upward. Why would anyone embrace change that may, if only for the short term, send the bottom line downward?
Our “better natures” embrace today and fear tomorrow. We huddle in corner offices, speaking only of known, present challenges while the company hums along smoothly outside our tightly-shut doors. Tomorrow everything could change, and change is an unknown universe of uncertainty and risk.
We think we’re wise because we hate uncertainty and risk, but it’s impossible to change without uncertainty and risk. We prefer to jog along a known, safe path and pass the torch in an orderly fashion to the next leader who’s ready and waiting on the same route.
It takes wild faith and wilder courage to embrace change, even when the reasons for change are overwhelmingly compelling. It means removing barriers, including ourselves if need be. It means having a plan and changing programs and processes. Ultimately, it means establishing a culture that values change the way a train might value a track if it could value anything at all.