Change has to come at the systematic level to remain. Too often we try to change without addressing the underlying systems and habits only to find that we slowly return to the old version of us. We try a new fancy diet or exercise routine but slowly go back to unhealthy eating and laziness. We decide we want to pay off debt but after a few weeks go back to the same spending habits. Whatever we are trying to do, we tend to ignore the system and focus solely on the outcome. We need to change that and look at the system that is driving the behavior.
Not only does this concept apply to our personal goals, it applies to large groups. When a country tries to control its citizens it passes a law. Whether or not that law is effective at changing society is determined by the underlying systems. Is it embraced by society? Is it enforced by police and the court system? Is there a movement around the law?
Prohibition provides an example of a failed law. Regardless of what was said and what was enforced, the law could not change people’s systems around drinking alcohol.
Civil rights legislation represents a series of laws that were successful in changing society’s views. This wasn’t a single law but systematic improvement over time by many people that each took civil rights to a higher level.
The corporate environment is also ruled by this principle. Companies try to change their image or brand all the time. Usually they attempt this by telling their employees that they now want to be known as a great company for customer service. But if nothing changes in there customer service systems they are wasting their time. It is more effective to change the policies and practices of the customer service professionals. That can change a customer’s perception when they have a good experience. Yet time and time again companies try for the shortcut and wonder why the customer service reputation doesn’t stick.
When you decide on a new direction or goal, don’t make the mistake of trying a shortcut to reach your goal. Understand that the lasting change almost always comes from a systematic approach to the change. Changing behavior slowly over time is much more lasting than a quick one time “fix.”