Arantxa García Fernandez
Danone South Europe Transformation Manager
Well, supposing we have eventually overcome not only inertia, but also our fears: We feel confident to do what needs to be done. This prompts the next question: Do we really want to, do we have the ambition, the power and the courage to embark on a transformation?
Not everyone has the energy to conduct a business transformation of any size at any given time, and that is why the third paralyzing factor in a transformation is laziness.
It is curious that laziness is considered a synonym of inertia, but if we remember its definition “Inertia is the resistance of matter to change its state of rest or motion when no force is acting on it”, we understand well that laziness is the lack of force, thus closing the circle of the 3 main paralyzers of a transformation: if nothing moves and we do not act as a force on what we want to change, nothing will move forward.
Laziness, reluctance, apathy or weakness is the lack of ambition to apply the force that will bring about change in an organization. And it is understandable, because wanting to change something is not easy and we will always find detractors and resistance to change whatever it is we want to change.
No transformation ever happens without someone or something resisting it, in fact, if by transforming something you do not make anyone feel uncomfortable, you are not really changing anything.
But let us return to the concept of laziness. Laziness is carelessness, asthenia, slowness or negligence in performing activities. And it carries so much weight in our culture that Christianity considers it one of the 7 deadly sins.
No one represents laziness in the animal world better than the koala. These creatures are awake barely 4 hours a day and spend the day on the same tree eating and sleeping. What is less known about them: they restrain their movements in order to consume very little energy and consequently limit their calorie consumption. So, “their laziness” is for survival, ours, on the other hand, has no excuse.
Laziness prevents us from achieving our goals, and yet it is very present in our lives and in organizations. What causes it to take possession of us? After all, for a short time we cease to do what we don’t like or what we are afraid of, and it provides us with the short-term reassurance of not having to take risks, however disregarding the consequences of doing so in the medium and long term.
What is the best example to illustrate this? A diet or the gym. We stop dieting or going to the gym because we don’t see results in the short term and it’s more comfortable to go back to eating what we like or lying on the couch instead of straining on the workout bench. By the time we realize the consequences of these decisions, it’s often too late.
Humans, like koalas, are programmed to be lazy; our nervous system prompts us to exert as little effort as necessary and expend as little energy as possible on our activity. This is why we find it so difficult to decide to do something for the first time. On the other hand, once we have managed to incorporate it into our routine, to even enjoy it, we come full circle by getting back on the hamster wheel, this time however, to enjoy our task and achieve a positive change.
So what do we do to overcome the three paralyzing factors that prevent starting up a transformation?
To overcome inertia, first of all, we must be curious enough to look outside the box with the desire to explore opportunities for improvement and learn, have the humility to recognize what we do not do so well and be willing to make a change.
To overcome fear, there are mainly two ways I know: to dare to approach little by little what frightens us, always a little further, and to have the courage to ask for help when we can’t do things alone.
And to overcome laziness, we need to motivate ourselves by the results we get when we take action and don’t immediately abandon it after the first step of having made a slight change. The best way to anchor the change is to set routines that force us to follow them until we see those results.
Bottom-line: You decide whether to ignore the need for change and to stay on the hamster wheel or to recognize it but remain anchored in your fear, unable to change anything and like the frightened zebra attack anyone who even mentions change. Finally, you may recognize yourself as being able to do something, but you just don’t want to take action and stay on your branch like a koala that only bothers to satisfy its basic needs. Regardless of the reason why you are not facing the change, sooner or later change will happen: It´s you who has to choose whether you master the change or let the change master you.