A Change Would Do You Good

I have been trying for three days to write this article. Every month I tell myself that I will plan a time to write this before the deadline reminder comes. And, I have succeeded only once. I often get some random ideas jotted down and a start here and there, but I have yet to succeed in changing my behaviour and getting the article written with time to spare. And really, why should I change my strategy? It has worked for me so far. Sure, finishing ahead of deadline would give me time to let someone with editing skills read it over. I would be less stressed for 24 hours. But those benefits just do not seem to outweigh the pattern I have set of waiting for that reminder email to get it done.

Businesses experience the same resistance to change. It is called inertia or active inertia depending on the article you are reading. It is what keeps organizations from changing. The challenge is that this inertia can keep businesses from adapting when it should. Inertia is also seen as businesses always reacting to problems in the same way. Knowing why change is hard should help us overcome this, as knowing is half the battle. The other half is having and implementing a strategy.

There are some tools you can use to overcome organizational inertia. As with many tasks, it requires communication.

Start with key influencers. You can identify influencers by reviewing who will be affected by the change, who can influence the change, and who will resist the change.

Create a climate for change. This can be done by clearly communicating what the change will look like. Be aware that change can make people anxious. Relieve the anxiety by articulating what the change will look like and how it impacts the people in your organization. Create a clear vision for the change.

Develop a plan. As you create a clear vision of the change, it should include details and goals to be achieved. Incorporate SMART objectives – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Align your organization for success. Communicate how this change works throughout the organization to improve things.

And communicate, again. Successful communications are clear, simple, and easy to understand. You must keep people in the loop.

A classic example of organizational inertia destroying a company is the Firestone tire company. Firestone, starting in the 1900’s, enjoyed nearly seven decades of uninterrupted growth. The demand for tires continued to grow and Firestone continued to provide. In the 1970s, radial tires were introduced, a product Firestone did not make. Almost overnight, everything changed. Demand for radials replaced demand for Firestone tires.

Firestone responded as they had always done to changes in demand. It’s just that this time, the demand was dropping rather than increasing. They made more tires while tinkering with manufacturing processes. They failed to adopt the new technology and introduce their own line of radials. They eventually had to rent storage space for all the tires that were not selling. Firestone eventually lost its market share and was bought by Bridgestone. 

As you run your company, be aware of inertia. Are you reacting to new challenges with old patterns? Are you stuck saying, “We’ve always done it that way?” Watch for these moments. When change is needed, build your plan and communicate it, and succeed.