Three Reasons That Change Is Necessary

You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

Plain and simple, change is necessary. Whether it’s in your personal life, your professional career, or your organizational culture, change is necessary.

Of course, you may be wondering, “Why? Why can’t I just sit in my comfort zone? Why do I have to change? And why does my company have to keep on changing everything?”

There are three reasons. First, YOUR MENTAL HEALTH REQUIRES IT. You can’t live your whole life in a comfort zone, being afraid of change, and have a strong, healthy self-respect.

The great opera singer, author, and entrepreneur, Beverly Sills knew that. She said, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”

And Bern Williams echoed her comments. He said, “If you try and fail, you have temporary disappointment. If you don’t try, you have permanent regret.”

Second, YOUR SURVIVAL DEMANDS IT. You may have gotten to a certain point in your career where you are experiencing a certain degree of success. And your organization may have captured a nice chunk of the marketplace. That’s great — but it’s not good enough.

There’s no such thing as a total lack of movement. You’re either moving forward or falling backward. So whatever brought you a measure of success, will not be sufficient to keep you there.

The great American philosopher and humorist, Will Rogers, knew that. He said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

As a consultant to dozens of organizations, I’m constantly trying to help people see the necessity of change. Their personal, professional, and organizational survival demands it. Arie de Geus, a visiting fellow at the London Business School, puts it this way. He says, “The only sustainable competitive advantage will become the ability to learn (change) faster than one’s competition.”

Third, PROGRESS REQUESTS IT. In fact, every improvement is the result of change. So if you’re going to get ahead, change is necessary.

Robert Fulghum made that clear in one of his books. He wrote about the small town emergency squad that was summoned to a house where smoke was poring from an upstairs window. The crew broke in and found a man in a smoldering bed.

After the man was rescued and the mattress doused, the crew asked the obvious question, “How did this happen?” “I don’t know,” replied the man. “It was on fire when I lay down on it.”

Obviously change was necessary in that situation.

It was also necessary in Janet Lacasse’s situation. As the company’s telex operator, she received several messages one day from Nigeria, all written in French.

Janet had learned a little French as a child, so she managed to send back a crudely phrased response. She continued to do that day after day, week after week, until one day she received a telex written in perfect English.

So Janet wrote back, asking her Nigerian counterpart why she had never used English before. “Because,” her colleague answered, “you kept answering in French.”

Again, change was necessary in that situation. Every improvement is the result of change.

However, not every change is an improvement. Some changes just plain stink. So change for change’s sake doesn’t make any sense.

Some changes aren’t good. Just look at the four changes or stages men go through:

1) When you believe in Santa Claus, 2) When you don’t believe in Santa Claus, 3) When you are Santa Claus, and 4) When you look like Santa Claus.

So change is necessary. All progress is the result of change. But there are basic principles you need to know if you’re going to master change. That’s what I teach in my program on “Mastering Change: Leaving Your Comfort Zone, Taking Risks, and Getting Results.”

One of those principles simply says that PEOPLE WILL FIGHT THE CHANGE NO MATTER HOW GOOD IT IS. Charles Kettering knew that. As one of the greatest change agents of the 20th century, as the engineer who turned General Motors into the biggest corporation in the world, Kettering noted: “The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.”

People don’t like to change the way they do things — even highly intelligent people. Even if the change seems reasonable and logical, people still resist it. After all, change is not comfortable. And people are not “accustomed” to it.

In fact the number of well educated, highly placed people who have bitterly opposed necessary change is almost laughable. General Billy Mitchell had to fight the entire hierarchy of the Army and Navy — and get court-martialed in the process — before he could convince Congress to build an air force.

Lt. William Sims, U.S. Navy, had to go around his superiors and write directly to President Theodore Roosevelt before he could get the Navy to adopt a superior method of aiming its guns, a method already proven by the British.

Nurse Margaret Sanger was one of the first health professionals to promote the idea of birth control. But her opposition was so fierce that she had to leave the U.S. for several years to avoid arrest and imprisonment.

Unfortunately, the world — and probably your organization — is filled with “cave” people. That’s what I call them — “Citizens Against Virtually Everything.”

Millions of people will fail in life because they are unwilling to make changes. They refuse to change the way they do their jobs, the places they live, or the friends they have. They stay in their comfort zones.

Yet thousands of others move up the ladder of happiness and success. They are willing to go through a little discomfort to experience a new level in life.

Tune in next week. I’ll explain why people resist change — even though it is necessary. I’ll outline the three blocks to change. And in future “Tuesday Tips,” I’ll suggest how you get yourself and others to move beyond those blocks.

Action:  I outlined three reasons why change is necessary: 1) Your mental health requires it, 2) your survival demands it, and 3) progress requests it.

As a small group or team exercise, take ten minutes to brainstorm why change is necessary in your organization. Remember, in brainstorming, you want to get the longest list possible. Don’t worry about the quality of your ideas, just the quantity. I’m sure you’ll soon see why change is necessary.