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Sometimes change isn’t the answer

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Sometimes change isn’t the answer

Scott Miker

I previously worked with a fairly large corporation.  The company had been around over 70 years and built a solid business with thousands of employees.

Because of the fact that the business was older and it was a large corporation, there were constant calls for change.  Everywhere people would claim we couldn’t keep working this way.  They would argue that the processes and systems were outdated.

One thing I remember during my time here was that often changing for the sake of change became the answer.  There were some in the organization that became terrified that without change we would end up outdated and uncompetitive.

In our personal lives sometimes I see the same thing.  We want to be flexible and able to adjust to all of life’s ebbs and flows.  We don’t want to become too rigid.

But this is all relative.  Someone who always jumps around from new thing to new thing could probably use a little more structure and stability.  The person that hasn’t changed anything in 30 years could probably use a little change. 

Just as the startup company that is finding it’s way will likely change more often than an established business that knows exactly where it fits in the marketplace.  In each situation, change likely means something different.

Because it is difficult to truly know when the need for change arises, we need to rely on systems thinking to help.  It can give a clearer picture with more variables.  This helps us from getting too caught up in changing everything or changing nothing. 

Even the language should change in these instances.  Instead of promoting change, start promoting improvement.  Look for ways to get better, not just for ways that are different. 

Once you find something that works, the best thing you can do is to keep going to solidify the behavior.  Keep doing it over and over again.  This will form a new habit and help you to keep going. 

Instead of jumping from fad diet to fad diet, start to make real improvements to how you eat.  Eating more whole wheat instead of refined flour, eating more vegetables and fruit instead of processed foods or drinking more water can be great ways to improve one’s health.  But the key is to do it for long enough for it to become an ingrained part of our behavior. 

In these examples, change isn’t what is important.  What is important is to get better.  Therefore, someone assuming more change is required will likely never do anything long enough to start to form the habits, structure and mental models that we need for long term improvement. 

The next time you think something in your life needs to change, think through the problem systematically.  This will help you to see more factors and more elements to the problem.  Then you can form a plan for improvement.

The improvement plan will certainly include some areas where change is needed but will also show areas where change harms your improvement efforts more than helps. 

The truth is that change is sometimes necessary but sometimes unnecessary.  Using the systems thinking approach will help to evaluate and determine what areas in your business or in your personal lives need to change in order to improve.