Out of Your Comfort Zone
To reach tomorrow's goals, you must escape yesterday's thinking.
by Dave Garwood
the Grand Canyon is a spectacular, awe-inspiring gap, but it's nothing
compared to the Comfort Zone Canyon! The Comfort Zone Canyon is the gap
between what you know and what you do.
today's changing environment, new technologies are learned faster than
they can be applied. Why? A lot of people are trapped in their comfort
zones. There are obstacles you must overcome to close the gap between what
you know and what you do. The challenge is to get people comfortable with
stepping out of their current comfort zones and climbing to a new comfort
there's a precedent. You've made the trip before. Remember when the word
processor was brought in to replace electric typewriters? Remember when
the CAD system replaced drawing boards and T-squares? Secretaries, engineers
and operators resisted with a vengeance and fought hard to avoid using
this new technology. But try to go back to this old equipment today. If
you think it was hard to make the change before, imagine the resistance
to turning back now!
can't mandate that people move out of their current comfort zones to new
ones. And you can't simply throw money at the problem and buy a jet-propelled
ticket to the next level. It's not that simple. Fortunately, many companies
have successfully moved from the old to the new. They've experienced significant
paradigm shifts in how the business is run and how people do their jobs.
Much has been learned from these brave "Paradigm Pioneers." Here are some
key characteristics that allow companies to jumpstart to a new comfort
Current business processes simply don't provide the level of performance
necessary to compete in today's global market. You and your co-workers
need to discuss how competitors, frequently new upstart companies here
and abroad, haven't read the rule book. They don't know all the reasons
why it can't be done. Double-digit improvements in everything they do is
common. If you continue to do the same old thing, you'll keep getting the
same old results. And you won't survive.
Make Change Non-Negotiable
You simply don't have the luxury of debating whether or not change is necessary.
Successful companies don't vote on it! Key leaders mandate that change
is inevitable, not only to survive, but to prosper.
Minimize Transition Time
During the transition to new methods, there will be disruption and loss
of effectiveness. How can this time be minimized? Climb with your eyes
open. Anticipate the inevitable, normal human reactions and become proactive
in minimizing them. There will also be some distrust during the transition
period. Some people will be looking for proof. There may be confusion about
roles, new terminology and suspicion of hidden agendas. Early successes
and open dialogues will help to dispel these roadblocks.
Quickly Reach a Consensus Vision
I'm not referring to the Vision Statement that in the annual report or
the one that's framed and hanging in the lobby. Those Vision Statements
are valuable, but you need to take it to the next level. Everyone in the
company must clearly see where you are going ... and have an understanding
of what the business will look like and how it will be run. And the vision
doesn't have to be achievable or even practical. You're not going to measure
the success or failure of reaching the vision. You are going to set goals
and measure success by meeting the ones consistent with the vision.
Overcome the "Paradigm Effect"
Often, people are stuck in comfort zones because of paradigms that filter
new ideas or create doubt that the new ideas will work. Joel Barker points
out that, when there's a major paradigm shift, everyone "goes back to zero."
The skills and abilities that enabled people to get raises and promotions
people have not been exposed to new concepts and ideas. For example, the
laborer in the field digging a 2-foot deep, 3-foot wide ditch for 100 yards.
You ask him, "Why aren't you using a backhoe?" His response, "What's a
backhoe?" Give that same laborer a backhoe demonstration and an opportunity
to use it and he'll gladly lay down his shovel! The same is true of the
purchasing agent, the shop foreman and all the other people you are asking
to make a paradigm shift. Making key people aware of the new ideas is an
essential initial investment.
Minimize Risk Consequences
Remember the grandiose promises and high expectations from past experiences?
Some of the people associated with these aren't even around anymore. Others
had their careers demolished when they were associated with failures. This
long list of misfires makes people skeptical. So create an environment
that allows people to take chances.
"So much to do and so little time," is the complaint I hear most often.
How do you get more done? You're not going to add more people ... there
are probably too many already. You aren't going to get people to work more
hours because they're already working six or seven days a week. The answer
is to raise effectiveness. How do you do that? Focus on doing a few things
really well. The challenge, of course, is picking the right few.
Concentrate on Strategic Goals
"Lack of top management commitment." I've heard it a thousand times. It's
a major concern as people think about climbing the ladder to a new comfort
zone. The majority of executives are fully committed. Yet the perception
that they aren't lingers on. Executive management is responsible for using
the total resources of the business to satisfy the customer and maximize
shareholder return. You can't be committed to specific projects that don't
have a clear connection to achieving the strategic goals of the business.
Conventional wisdom encourages us to work on the big opportunities. Traditionally,
the focus has been on solving a few problems for the highest return. But
these also represent the biggest risk, take longer to solve, and require
more approvals and larger teams of people. Success breeds success. And
initially, you need successes. To build momentum, focus on small, not global
issues. Concentrate on tasks that can be done in 90 days or less.
Up until now, you've organized your business by dividing up the duties
and assigning people to functional silos. Yet satisfying customers requires
high-quality performance in activities linked to business processes. People
need to see responsibility as serving internal customers well and supporting
internal suppliers. Ask yourself these questions:
- Who are my
- What are
- Am I meeting
- What is the
internal customer's perception of the first three?
Find Better Yardsticks
As long as measurements and awards are based on silo performance, people
will concentrate on doing whatever is necessary to get their department
to perform well, even at the expense of the horizontal business process!
Maybe you should begin using the internal customer's measurements of their
internal suppliers for promotions and raises, rather than the boss's. Depending
on the boss to evaluate the individual departments causes people to look
vertically, not horizontally.
theory tells us that people learn in a very specific way. We learn in spurts
of progress, followed by a plateau, followed by another spurt. Think about
when you learned to drive. When you first got behind the wheel, driving
was a mysterious, complex and dangerous activity. You had to learn when
to accelerate, when to brake, when to shift gears and what that red hexagonal
sign meant. The first time you started the engine, your worst nightmare
was a 4-way stop sign at the top of a steep hill. But as you learned more,
practiced more and studied more, driving became a snap. You had reached
a new comfort zone.
you have to do is climb out of that canyon!