I’m in California this week visiting family and friends. I ran over to a department store with my oldest children in tow to grab a few items I’d left at home.
In our hometown, we have the same department store, but the layout is a little different. Our hometown store has a bakery, and they have free cookies for kids at that bakery. This department store we went to today did not have a bakery, and also no free cookies.
My kids have been conditioned a bit to expect a cookie after shopping if they’ve behaved and done what they’ve been asked. I wasn’t able to offer that to them, and since they are 3 and 1 respectively, they were not exactly understanding my explanations that this store had no bakery.
As my disappointed kids kept looking at me for cookies (I’m too cheap to buy cookies for them), this thought crossed my mind: “Man, our store at home is way better than this one.”
We’ve all had an experience or two like this, right? We go to a new place, a new organization, a new team and we automatically start to compare the experiences and framework of the new situation to the comfort and familiarity of our old experience. As we do these evaluations, we often quickly conclude that the new experience is either better or worse than our old one.
In some cases, our initial evaluations may be correct. But that’s not always the case. Consider these old sayings and cliches, some of which you’ve probably heard more than once:
* “Change for change’s sake”
* “We’ve always done it this way”
* “At my old job…..”
With my department store experience today, I may not understand why they’ve chosen to go without a bakery. Maybe they are able to offer more products regularly used in this part of the country instead of using space for a bakery. Maybe not having a bakery allows prices to be cheaper than if they did have a bakery. This may be true, and it may be not. The point is: I don’t know for sure. And I couldn’t possibly know without a lot more context.
Great teams change and adapt, that is for certain. But simply changing or being different doesn’t necessarily make things better. On the flip side, just because something is familiar or comfortable does not guarantee a better situation either. Evaluations must be made on merit.
Consider your own experience with changing situations and the challenges those situations present.
* How can you evaluate changes and differences on merit instead of simple familiarity?
* Think of time when you felt yourself defending outdated practices. What prompted your defense? Was it effective and productive? Did it cause any friction on your team?
* How will you approach differences and change in a productive manner in the future?