Man is not made to change

People often try to take the shortest route or the path of least resistance to achieve a goal. It’s a human reflex. However it is a lot worse if laziness becomes a goal in itself.

In many (often larger) organizations, there are always employees that see it as their duty to do as little as possible. Unfortunately, they also often try to drag others down with them – sometimes through intimidation.

An example from my own youth:

As a young man, I had a part-time job working in a warehouse for a few weeks during summer vacations. In my first year, I stormed in full of sixteen-year-old enthusiasm and a desire to work. It was the first time I was able to earn money and I felt pretty proud of myself. I was given the job of pulling items from the warehouse racks for the orders that were placed. I dove right in and worked through the order forms one by one. After about an hour and a half, I was pulled aside by one of the full-time warehouse employees and was given a serious tongue-lashing. Who did I think I was? Didn’t I realize that, because of my furious pace, management would raise its requirements? I figured it out pretty quickly. He was afraid that, because I was working like a maniac, he would have to work harder too.

Try, just once, to find a positive way to involve someone with a similar attitude in an improvement project. It’s not that easy. The project is guaranteed to be shot down before it even has a chance to get off the ground. “What do we need this for? It’s fine as it is. We’ve been doing it like this for years! All that extra work? Why bother?” How can we urge these people to re-think their point of view?

How can we motivate them to just give improvement projects a chance? “By showing them how they themselves also improve from them.” In practice, it comes down to communicating a lot about improvement projects. The purpose of the improvement project must be clearly communicated using appropriate language to everybody, in every level of the organization, and with a clear translation to their environment – i.e. “What’s in it for me?”