Entrenched Thinking

Prussians of R.I.R. 235 in a narrow trench
I’ve written before on this blog about entrenched thinking “The Way It’s Always Been Done”. But I think the time is ripe for visit this topic because it is still something that occurs a lot more than we would like in companies.

What is it?
The example I give - one passed down from my father - is the dry cleaning business which had a rather erratic and nonsensical route for the delivery truck to take. More details can be found here :

What that story illustrates is that there are decisions which are taken at a corporate level each and every day which are not always based on sound business judgement, but are based on historical reasons for doing things.

That’s bad, right?
Not that there is anything wrong with checking history when looking at why we do things. But businesses must remember that situations change over time and what was, historically, true may no longer by something to consider. My other example is related to the insurance industry and can be found here:

Both of these stories have an underlying symptom which is more relevant to today's working environment: Resistance to change.

Resistance to change
Sure, it’s easy to continue doing things the ways you’ve always done them. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. It’s easy. It works. Changing the way something is done can lead to confusion, uncertainty, unfamiliarity, even a decrease in quality of the final product, but all of these things are just temporary. When I was nearing the end of high school, a classmate had an accident which resulted in him severing most of the tendons in his right arm, (the one he wrote with). Overnight he was forced to learn to write left handed. The initial results were not good but by the time examinations came around his hand writing was as good with his left hand as it had been with his right hand.

This shows that change - whilst not always welcome or expected - does not have to be bad. But it does need to be managed.

People need to understand why change has to occur. People need to have help in understanding how to change. Most of all people need to feel that they are being listened to and that their input is being heard.

Of course, this isn’t easy. But research has shown (and my own anecdotal evidence has confirmed) that bad change management is one of the key points of failure amongst projects. 

End users are not often told why things need to change. They are not told what the benefit is of changing. Mostly, though, they are not compensated for following the new behaviours

It has often been said that what gets measured gets rewarded. If this is the case then measuring adherence to implemented changes and rewarding users  for that will certainly increase uptake. Conversely, punishing users for adherence to the old way of doing things will have a similar affect, but will be viewed in a slightly less positive light.

Change is good. At least change with the intention of improving things. Entrenched thinking can be a source of inefficiency, resistance and cost and needs to be overcome to improve process. The opposite, of course, is true: needless change for the seek of it isn’t going to win you many friends either.

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