Reformers stink. People who try to change things for the better always get a negative response. Every time we hear a leader or other authority figure talk about reforming the way things are done, we almost invariably roll our eyes in contempt. Why? Are reformers bad people? Do we not like disruptions to the status quo? Or do we just hate reforms? Personally, I think all these ideas are wrong, and here’s why:
Look at a common definition of reform:
Reform: To convert into another and better form. The improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory, etc. The amendment of conduct, belief, etc.
Where do most reforms focus? Improvement. Where should reform focus? Fundamentals.
Why You Need to Reform Better
The two biggest reform movements in American politics right now are healthcare and education. Clearly, there are major changes going on. The status quo is no longer acceptable. And people have mixed reviews. However, the problem (and solution) is not with the reforms themselves. In fact, there are very little reforms taking place other than small improvements. The focus of health care and education reform is nothing more than tighter management and standardization. The reform effort is trying to reduce costs, make outcomes the same, and improve a broad range of test scores. The results have been less than successful.
Too many leaders and regular workers try to duplicate this same type of incremental, small-step reform, and are met with the same unmeasurable, hardly successful results. Leaders clamp down on financial management and positional authority, and suddenly all the talented people are gone and their companies are no longer competitive (see Circuit City). Employees focus on adding more hours and responsibilities and titles and burn out just as quick as the companies which allow employees to do just that. Financial management, consolidated authority, responsibilities, and more work are all incremental improvements. But they are certainly not reforms.
How to Reform Better
There is no list. If you want to reform better, and realize true and meaningful reform, you need to do one thing first: shift the focus. Question the fundamentals of what you desire to reform. If your business is tanking, it could be your company culture that is undermining your customer relationships and eroding your profit. Tighter financial control will not fix that. If your relationship with your boss has gone sour, it could be the way you communicate that is destroying your relationship. Working longer hours to gain favor and responsibility will not fix that. The next step after questioning the fundamentals is simple. Find what fundamental change works, and duplicate it. It may be radical, untested, and scary to do. But that is the only kind of reform that does not stink. Fortunately, it is the only kind of reform that leads to success. So get at it.
Question: How do you focus and reform better?
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