THE NATURE OF CHANGE AND ITS REPERCUSSIONS
An extract from the book HOW TO MANAGE IN TIMES OF CRISIS.
Dr. Ichak K. Adizes, Ph. D
THE INCREASING RATE of change has repercussions. When change occurs, problems arise: what to do in the new situation or with the new events facing us. As change accelerates, problems are attacking us faster. Everybody has more problems than they can handle. People are falling behind faster and getting more and more stressed.
But when we solve the problem, what happens? The solution itself is a cause of change, which now creates new problems. So, the more problems we solve—guess what? —the more problems we have. The end result is that we will always have problems.
Why can't we have no problems? People often have expectations that if only they follow this system, if only they follow this religion, if only they follow this book, if only they follow this ideology—if only they do this or that— they will have no more problems. That is the promise of all religions and all political ideologies.
But that's utopian. The truth is, you can stop having problems only when there is no more change. And that means when you are...dead. Dead! Think about it: The quietest place in town is the cemetery. Nothing is happening there. To be alive, by definition, means to have problems. If you don't have problems, don't worry; they're on their way. Life is problems. Why? Because change creates problems, and change is life. (A Google search produced 3.8 million hits for the expression "Life's a bitch and then you die.") Only when there is no life will there be no change, and only then will we have no problems. Or at least that is what we think—because so far no one has come back from the hereafter and told us differently.
Problems come with the territory called living, and the faster the rate of change in your life or your company, the more problems you will have.
So, your first Take-home value is:
f you have problems, relax! You are in good company. You are alive. And if you believe you don't have problems, then your biggest problem could be that you do not recognize your problems.
I once had a client in the software business. The company grew very rapidly: 100 percent a year. When its managers complained to me about how many problems they had, I asked them, "What do you expect? With that rate of growth and, thus, change, you must have lots of problems. That is normal."
It is normal to have problems. We have already covered that. But when you cannot handle a problem caused by change—aha!—now you have a problem that is abnormal. And if you do not solve the abnormal problems, over time they can become fatal problems. That is what is happening to the big automotive companies of Detroit. They have been so slow in responding to market needs, for so long, that now no loans or donations will save them. Why? Because they are no longer facing normal problems. Now they seem to be facing fatal problems.
Problems change in their severity over time. But having bigger problems does not necessarily mean that the situation is worse.
One year I sent a greeting card to all my clients wishing them a happy and productive new year. My wish was:
"May you have bigger problems in the coming year than the ones you had this passing year..."
At the bottom of the card in small letters, it read:"... that you can handle successfully."
You are as big as the problems you can handle. So having bigger problems is not a sign of dying, it is a sign of growing. Let us assume that this year you face the problem of how to successfully sell your product regionally. Several years later, you have the bigger problem of how to manage sales nationally; still later, you have problems managing an international company; and eventually you face the problem of how to convert an international company into a well-managed multinational.
The problems are getting bigger, but it is because you are taking on bigger assignments. You are growing.
When you have smaller and smaller problems, it means your strength is declining. You are aging.
Of course, when you have bigger and bigger problems that you cannot handle, it means you are dying.
When there is change, are you capable of dealing with it? How change will affect you depends on you. If you can handle problems successfully, they aren't problems anymore. They are opportunities, because, in reality, every problem is also an opportunity.
In the Chinese language, the word for "problem" and the word for "opportunity" are one and the same! There is no difference. And doesn't that make sense? What is your opportunity? Your client or competitor's problem. For them it's a problem, but for you it is an opportunity. And what is your competitor's opportunity? Your problem, which he knows how to address better than you do.
But why would you want to make your problem somebody else's opportunity? Why don't you make your problem your own opportunity?
Please note: Whether change becomes a problem or an opportunity depends on what you do with it. It is as if this new situation demands of you: "Do you want me to be a problem or an opportunity? You decide. If you don't do what you need to do, I will be a problem. If you react appropriately, I will be an opportunity. Which do you want me to be?"