I am trying very hard to stay out of the political turmoil on this blog, but it is very hard, because from a change management perspective this whole election and upcoming presidency is beyond interesting to me. What I see on a daily basis, in the companies I consult to, is playing out on a much bigger stage and it is riveting. I believe the next four years are going to change challenge us in ways we haven’t been challenged before.
Change is hard, I talk about that all the time, but change is really hard when we have been at something a long time. Our country has been built on many traditions and often people forget the difference between tradition and laws. We fall into the trap of “we’ve always done what we’ve always done” and when someone new steps in and wants to do it a different way the defenses go up. Even if the old ways aren’t particularly serving us well any longer, we grab on to them with a death grip because they are comfortable, familiar and predictable.
The headline today is about the media and traditions. Dan Rather is leading the charge of condemning President-Elect Trump for not holding press conferences ‘old school’ like it has always been done. Instead P-E Trump chose to address the US using Twitter, a new media option presidents before him didn’t have. Instead of embracing these new channels and adapting the print and news media are accusing P-E Trump of breaking the rules of the past. My gut tells me this is the first of many of these national discussions. It is time to face the question of our change capability as a nation. And I also believe the answer to that question determines as much about our future in the world as our next president does. Are we a country who can mold and adapt in a changing world or are we like many around the world see us inflexible and stuck in the past. Does our tendency to cling to traditions paralyze us on a global stage?
A lesson I was taught three years ago today, when I met my horse Jasmine for the first time, is that often when we get what we don’t want, we get exactly what we need. I am beginning to wonder if that will be the legacy of a Trump presidency. Are we at this point in history because there are lessons we as a country need to learn to be successful for another 200 years? There is a phrase in change management; I believe I have used it before in this blog, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change”. We very well may have been at that tipping point and that is the real “why” on the outcome of the 2016 election, this was our change trigger.
Some of you may have been intrigued by the title of this blog post and what it means. One of my favorite stories about always doing what you have always done revolves around tires. I heard this from a speaker at an efficiency conference many years ago. The keynote speaker had worked in the auto industry and was hired by one of the major tire manufacturers to reduce cost. Through his analysis he found that the company was spending millions of dollars a year shrink wrapping the tires. It took him over six months to find someone who could tell him why. It took him meeting with a long-retired manager to learn that they were shrink wrapping the tires to prevent scratching the whitewalls on the tires. The company hadn’t made whitewall tires in over a decade but no one had ever stopped and pointed out this was no unnecessary. They just kept doing what they had always done!
What are your whitewalls? What are our whitewalls as a nation? How often do we continue with behaviors or processes that no longer fit just because they are what we know or what we were told? I am always amazed when I meet with a firm and ask why they do something and the only answer anyone can tell me is “the person before me told me to do it that way”.
As we approach the end of 2016 I challenge each of you to break down a whitewall, to look at your reactions to change and really consider are you holding on for the sake of tradition and comfort or is it time to change.