Last week we learned that there is no doubt, the world is warming. A U.N. report affirmed by some 1,000 scientists asserted 95% confidence as to the likely outcomes, as well as the cause. We must expect more volatility in weather, and that the oceans will continue rising.
Yet, most people really could have cared less. And a vocal minority still clings to the notion that because the prior decade saw a slower heating, perhaps this will all just go away.
Incredibly, for those of us who don't live and work in Florida, there was CNN news footage of daily flooding in Miami's streets due to current sea levels which have risen over last 50 years. Given that we can now predict the oceans will rise between 1 and 6 feet in the next 50 years, it is possible to map the large areas of Miami streets which are certain to be flooded.
There is just no escaping the fact that the long-term trend of global warming will have a remarkable impact on everyone. It will affect transportation, living locations, working locations, electricity generation and distribution, agriculture production, textile production - everything will be affected. And because it is happening so slowly, we actually can do lots of modeling about what will happen.
Yet, I never hear any business leaders talk about how they are planning for global warning. No comments about how they are making changes to keep their business successful. Nor comments about the new opportunities this will create. Even though the long-term impacts will be substantial, the weather and how it affects us is treated like the status quo.
What does this have in common with the government shutdown?
America has known for decades that its healthcare system was dysfunctional; to be polite. It was incredibly expensive (by all standards) and yet had no better outcomes for citizens than other modern countries. For over 20 years efforts were attempted to restructure health care. Yet as the morass of regulations ballooned, there was no effective overhaul that addressed basic problems built into the system. Costs continued to soar, and more people joined the ranks of those without health care, while other families were bankrupted by illness.
Finally, amidst enormous debate, the Affordable Care Act was passed. Despite wide ranging opinions from medical doctors, nurses, hospital and clinic administrators, patient advocacy groups, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies and insurance companies (to name just some of those with a vested interest and loud, competing, viewpoints) Congress passed the Affordable Care Act which the President signed.
Like most such things in America, almost nobody was happy. No one got what they wanted. It was one of those enormous, uniquely American, compromises. So, like unhappy people do in America, we sued! And it took a few years before finally the Supreme Court ruled that the legislation was constitutional. The Affordable Care Act would be law.
But, people remain who simply do not want to accept the need for health care change. So, in a last ditch effort to preserve the status quo, they are basically trying to kidnap the government budget process and hold it hostage until they get their way. They have no alternative plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. They simply want to stop it from moving forward.
What global warming and the government shut down have in common are:
- Very long-term problems
- No quick solution for the problem
- No easy solution for the problem
- If you do nothing about the problem today, you have no immediate calamity
- Doing anything about the problem affects almost everyone
- Doing anything causes serious change
So, in both cases, people have emerged as the Status Quo Police. They take on the role of stopping change. They will do pretty much anything to defend & extend the status quo:
- Ignore data that is contradictory to the best analytical views
- Claim that small probability outcomes (that change may not be necessary) justifies doing nothing
- Delay, delay, delay taking any action until a disaster requires action
- Constantly claim that the cost of change is not justified
- Claim that the short-term impact of change is more deleterious than the long-term benefits
- Assume that the status quo will somehow resolve itself favorably - with no supporting evidence or analysis
- Undertake any action that preserves the status quo
- Threaten a "scorched earth policy" (that they will create big, immediate problems if forced to change the status quo)
The earth is going to become warmer. The oceans will rise, and other changes will happen. If you don't incorporate this in your plans, and take action, you can expect this trend will harm you.
U.S. health care is going to be reformed. How it will happen is just starting. How it will evolve is still unclear. Those who create various scenarios in their plans to prepare for this change will benefit. Those who do nothing, hoping it goes away, will find themselves struggling.
The Status Quo Police, trying their best to encourage people to ignore the need for change - the major, important trends - are helping nobody. By trying to preserve the status quo they inhibit effective planning, and action, to prepare for a different (better) future.
Does your organization have Status Quo Police? Are their functions, groups or individuals who are driven to defend and extend the status quo - even in the face of trends that demonstrate change is necessary? Can they stop conversations around substantial change? Are they allowed to stop future planning for scenarios that are very different from the past? Can they enforce cultural norms that stop considering new alternatives? Can they control resources resulting in less innovation and change?
Let's learn from these 2 big issues. Change is inevitable. It is even necessary. Trying to preserve the status quo is costly, and inhibits taking long-term effective action. Status Quo Police are obstructionists who keep us from facing, and solving, difficult problems. They don't help our organizations create a new, more successful future. Only by overcoming them can we reach our full potential, and create opportunities out of change.