5 common rationalizations for organizational inertia

By Steve Weissman posted 07-18-2012 10:09


Newton's first law of motion states that “an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.” Sometimes referred to as the law of inertia, we see it all the time as it operates on the likes of moving cars and careening toddlers. But it also applies to organizational behavior, where the tendency is to continue doing business as usual (i.e., remain at rest) even in situations that scream for a rethink of the information management environment (i.e., to be put into motion).

Here are my favorite rationalizations for standing pat and some possibly useful responses that you can use to get your organization moving:

  1. It's not my job. Well, of course it is – maybe not officially, but inefficiencies in the process and technology can limit your effectiveness as an employee and thus potentially your tenure and earning power. So why wouldn't you want to affect some sort of change?
  2. Our current system still works. That may be true in the sense that it still turns on and can handle an inquiry, but if it is old enough, it probably is slow, hard to navigate, incompletely covers all of your organizational information. Like as not, you don’t realize just how much of an impediment your system has become because it's hard to know what you’re missing until you see something new. So get out there and look around – you'll be amazed by what you see.
  3. I have no budget. Really? No budget at all? I’m guessing you mean that you don't have a lot of money to spend on information systems, and in that, you're not unusual. But not every initiative has to be spelled with a capital “I,” and chances are that there are some local processes that you can improve without a whole lot of spending. And if you reach out to the other departments with which you interact, you may find that pooling your budgets makes more things more possible.
  4. I don't want to make waves. This is completely understandable, especially in this economy, where the tendency is to walk softly in areas of sensitivity. But no one is suggesting that you foment a revolution, merely that you speak up when you see opportunities for improvement. If you do it constructively and in terms of "the greater good," you may in fact find yourself regarded as a hero rather than a troublemaker.
  5. I don't know where to start. If you're like most information professionals today, your list of possibilities probably is plenty long. So I recommend that you listen to people’s complaints, add your own to the pile, and then look for the thematic commonalities. Pull out the most “blue sky” of the lot and then see what's left – chances are, that's where you should consider starting.

What justifications do you hear as you fight the good fight? Please comment below or drop me an e-mail to discuss if you prefer to remain anonymous!

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