Posted by: Knightbird | July 14, 2015

Resistance to Change Revisited

I watched a stage of the Tour De France today. Team Sky, the British cycling team, placed 3 riders in the top ten, and their lead rider literally demolished the rest of the field. I have written before about Team Sky and the theory used by Sir David Brailsford to transform British cycling. Her refers to it as the “Aggregation of Marginal Gains.” The theory is that you pay attention to the system of cycling and seek small improvements everywhere. I learn a lot from smart people, and wonder why very few others do. I have written many times about resistance to change and why we cannot seem to innovate.

In 1536, the first published edition of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” was released. In Chapter 6, we read the following:

“And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the prince is endangered along with them.”

I have encountered resistance to change in every area I have chosen to increase my expertise. As a pitching coach, I learned about how to scientifically improve a pitcher. When I tried to introduce new techniques to Alaska baseball, I met heavy resistance. It’s still that way today. Yet the first all state pitcher I coached had a low 70 MPH fastball, but was able to stay in games because of the knowledge I shared with him. When I began researching health and weight loss, the science was fairly well established, but heavily resisted because of political interventions that were based on emotion. Yet 3 people I advised had weight losses of 60, 50 and 105 pounds respectively. I lost 40 pounds myself. As I began learning about suicide and how to prevent it, I ran into those who were, as a colleague of mine is fond of saying, heavily invested in failure. Think of it this way, if we were actually able to reduce the incidence of suicide, a cadre of political and research leadership would find their area of expertise heavily reduced in importance.

Resistance is heavy whenever you choose to battle for a new order. Yet the rewards can be great. The British cycling team is outstanding today because of their change. The change came because one man was able to convince a team that it was in their interests. They meet naysayers every step of the say. That single man has been knighted by the Queen of England for his achievement. He is not quite a Prince, but darn close now.

Lean Thinking has been around for a long time now. And it has transformed organizations from true mediocrity (and some who were at deaths door) to world class. When I share their stories, along with a history of how the changes occurred, I get blank stares. The politicians are in charge of all of our Native organizations, from the IHS down to tribally managed health care systems. They protect their privilege, and the gains they receive, from being heavily invested in failure. If we had good healthcare, and people actually healed, or didn’t get ill, we wouldn’t earn as much from their bad fortune. It is in the interests of the entrenched to remain in the system that continues to reward them. Until it doesn’t any more.

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