The Truth About Change

Special to the Caldwell Journal (by Daniel B. Rundquist)…In 21st century America, we are constantly being told that we live in a world of change. That we must be all be willing to blindly accept change and adapt to whatever comes, or pay the price, we are led to believe. We are then told over and over that tired old cliché that “change is good.” Is it really? No one ever tells us what the changes are that they want to make or what changes are coming. They apparently just want people to be gullible and malleable so others can get away with whatever they like and call it “change.” For all the pressure to accommodate “change” all around us—whatever that is, there are many times where notable benefits are to be had for NOT adapting to this dubious concept of “change.” I label this concept with the forgotten word, consistency.

Changing anything for the sake of change alone is always poor policy. The nation just emerged from eight years of “hope and change” and where did it get us? We now have fewer jobs, the highest taxes, the highest national debt, and the most people on public assistance than at any time in our nation’s history—not to forget that the whole world is now on fire. I could go on here but will spare the statistics for the sake of space and sanity.

Imagine if you applied this faulty “change is good” mantra to your personal life the same way we are expected to accept it everywhere else—randomly changing out your car battery about every three months or changing jobs or insurance companies every year, or getting a new spouse every three years or so—all on the flawed, unsupported, and mostly absurd premise that “change is good.” Just because you CAN change something, does not automatically define it as good or necessary, and so it is with so many folks today that have simply bought into this ridiculous bill of goods without really applying any critical thinking to the matter.

To be fair, real changes do occur that should and must be adapted to. However, sound policies already in place and adhered to can adapt to change, but are not servants to it. In most areas of the economy and general business practices, policies that stress consistency over time are better suited for stability and long term growth. While change is a reality, it is also the anomaly, not the general rule. Business sectors in emerging technologies would be one of many exceptions as technology and information systems are subject to change rapidly and for them, they must embrace a constant state of change. For the rest of us, change when we must, but we should not allow change to direct all policy.

Let’s say you own your own small business. For a moment we can imagine that “change” is a real person whom we will name, Mr. Change, and he just showed up at your doorstep this morning. Mr. Change quickly becomes the center of attention and the most popular guy at work because he is interesting and seems important. While he does not really know anything, he’ll keep you entertained with his stories of what might one day happen. Mr. Change announces that all previously sound policies and practices are suspended pending his review. In this environment, Mr. Change may act as though he has no ethical compass or any long term goals, with no idea how to address any short term goals. It’s not his responsibility. He has few or no original ideas of his own and often hires others (consultants) to creatively navigate a new, often imaginary landscape he has mapped out. He cannot manage anything, contributes little but the uncertainty that he himself creates, and ripples nothing more than often unjustified doubt and fear across his wake.

Remember that when Mr. Change arrives, it’s your job to manage him, not the other way around. If that does not work, don’t be afraid—Mr. Consistency also works in your office and he normally carries a big stick to keep Mr. Change in line. Mr. Consistency not only knows what to do to drive results, but he has worked with and around guys like Mr. Change before. Mr. Consistency’s experience has proven time and again how sound policy often trumps Mr. Change’s desperate message of imaginary doom and gloom. Yeah, he makes adjustments for Mr. Change, but is able to stay the course to keep long term goals on track. He believes that Mr. Change is more annoying than scary.

While Mr. Consistency politely shakes your hand as you leave the office for the night, Mr. Change won’t take a hint and follows you home. He won’t leave you alone and will keep you up at night worrying about his next move. Now you begin to wonder if you ever should have allowed him into your life in the first place. You soon realize that putting Mr. Change in charge of anything might have expensive and disastrous results. Few have the courage to let him go before he makes a mess.

In the civic environment though, it’s a completely different story. Mr. Change actually has important and timely messages to deliver. He shows up at your church, and there he’s in for a surprise. Mr. Consistency is a member there, and so are all his relatives and friends. Mr. Change is outnumbered, ignored and perhaps even ridiculed. Because the church is not a business, they have been able to do everything the same way for decades and most members think it’s all working just fine, even when the present data show otherwise. Ignoring Mr. Change here will often cause big problems down the road because for all his warnings, there is in fact truth in the message Mr. Change carries with him. But Mr. Change is dismissed, unwelcome, and often sent away.

The point is that yes, change is something we all must deal with at times in our lives and in all the environments we travel. But allowing change to universally dictate all decisions just because the media or anyone else says, “change is good” is as ridiculous as it is foolish. We would be better served to remain grounded in sound policy and manage change when necessary.

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