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Some misunderstandings about change

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.  

Some misunderstandings about change

Scott Miker

Is change good or bad?  Should we all constantly change or remain relatively stable throughout our lives?  Are businesses that constantly reinvent themselves better than those that have been doing what they do for decades?

You will likely get many different opinions on the subject of change.  The other day I was reading an old article article on change that promoted the concept of constant change for change’s sake.

The author pulled examples of when a company came up with a revolutionary concept and drastically changed the market.  They pointed to Dell and how Dell changed the way PC’s were bought.  They point to Starbucks as this new way to enjoy coffee.

The problem was that this article was a few years old.  So the examples, while they made sense, haven’t continued on that path of constant, revolutionary change since the article was written.

The reason is simple.  Change is something we all have to deal with but building value takes time.  Yes there’s examples of people make a change and suddenly become very successful from that change.  But that doesn’t mean all we need to do to find success is just keep changing stuff.

Yes we should embrace change; but only when we are working towards improvement and see the change as a catalyst towards something better.  If we constantly shift from the value producing aspects of our company to something new without a true understanding of what we are doing, that isn’t beneficial.  It is hazardous.  Someone successful doing this will likely change away any value.

Instead we should rely on systems thinking to identify the full system.  We have to start to better understand how all of the aspects of the system interact.  Then if we find areas that are holding the system back from greater success, we change.

In the article they then brought up a relatively small company that has been in the furniture business for 20 years.  They argued that they should get rid of all their sales people and instead just provide great customer service.  They said people no longer want sales people and instead want to have great customer service after the sale. 

That business model exists but this business has obviously found something that works. 

About eight months ago I bought a couch.  When I walked in to the store I bought from, I knew they had numerous sales people that would approach and be constantly trying to get us to buy.  It didn’t bother me and instead made it easy to ask questions to feel comfortable about the purchase.

We walked into many furniture stores that day.  We noticed different sales techniques, business models etc.  We didn’t buy from the one that was known to have great customer service after the sale.  Customer service wasn’t one of the major factors for us in our decision to buy. 

So if we look at the system around the furniture store, if they feel that customer service will be one of the main factors that will help them be successful then great, work to change.

But if they look at the system and realize that it isn’t important, then don’t waste resources changing something that won’t improve the business. 

It would be equivalent saying that a grocery store should paint their bathrooms a certain color.  Yes it might be nice, but do people really choose that grocery store over others because the bathroom colors?  Probably not.

The point is that change shouldn’t just be some half-hearted move that we all do over and over.  Instead we should look at change strategically.  We should understand the full system so we can get an idea of what the change will ultimately lead to.  

Change for the sake of change is dangerous.  We have to work hard in order to build value and can ruin that instantly with the wrong change.  But we also will be missing out on opportunities if we are afraid to change. 

So take the time to understand the systematic benefits of the change.  Don’t be afraid to change when it is warranted but don’t get too caught up in constantly changing for the sake of change hoping to stumble upon some value that nobody else saw.