The monkey business of enacting change

April 1, 2021
A lot of shop managers want to take a new approach to business. The problem is they don’t have the power to implement those changes.

A lot of shop managers want to take a new approach to business. 

They have taken the time to study the industry and are starting to truly understand their markets. They are taking online classes to learn how to secure business for tomorrow. 

For them, change is not an option. It’s an imperative. The problem is they don’t have the power to implement those changes. Many are stuck under the authority of a shop owner whose notion of how to run things is stuck in an outdated paradigm. 

Let me draw an analogy that might make the situation clear. 

There is a cage with five monkeys in it. A banana hangs on a string above a set of stairs in the middle of the cage. Inevitably, a sharp-eyed monkey notices the banana, and decides to retrieve it. As soon as he touches the stairs, however, everyone gets sprayed with cold water. In the chaos that ensues, the intrepid monkey is frightened away from the stairs. 

Eventually, though, another monkey is lured by that nice yellow banana. Again, as soon as he touches the stairs, everyone gets sprayed with cold water. 

By now they have begun to associate the stairs with the cruel, cold water and if another monkey gets interested in the banana, they might try to discourage him. After a few more soakings, they will try to physically prevent anyone from going near the stairs. 

Now we are going to change things up a bit. We will put away the cold water and replace one of those monkeys with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all the other monkeys attack him when he tries. After another attempt, and subsequent attack, he starts to realize that he is not allowed to climb the stairs. 

Now, remove another of the original five monkeys. Bring in a new one and see what happens. Again, when the newcomer goes to the stairs, he is attacked. Even the previous newcomer has learned the behavior, and he adds his punishment with enthusiasm. 

If you replace a third original monkey with a new one, and then a fourth, and then a fifth, you will find that every time a newcomer goes to the stairs, he gets attacked. Eventually none of the monkeys in the cage have ever been sprayed with cold water, but they continue the attacks. They do not know why they aren’t allowed to climb the stairs. They do not know why they should beat anyone who tries. But they do it nonetheless. Why? Because that’s the way it’s done around here. 

Does this analogy pertain at all to your shop? Your people? Are irrational constraints holding your company back? 

Some in our industry — and the ones who still hold authority over the business – are not learning new behaviors. They refuse to change. They are not keeping up to date with new strategies and tactics. In their minds, they have seen it all before and there is no use changing things up. “Been there, done that” is their mantra. They are not about to shake things up. They are sticking with the standard thinking, the old routines. They are going through the motions that they’re used to. 

Meanwhile, profits keep dropping. 

It is time to come to grips with this mentality. We need to address this kind of apathy, this reluctance to try something new. It is time to embrace a new vision based on clear understanding. 

Let’s go for the banana! 

Want to spark some fireworks? Clip this article and share it with the ones who can’t stomach change. They will react very strongly to these ideas because no one likes gut-wrenching change. 

But have your notes ready. Bring a folder or your tablet full of facts so you can help them see the light. Be prepared to talk things out. 

People who are stuck in a rut or living in the dark ages of outdated thinking need to be coaxed into a new paradigm. Time is wastingYou can’t afford to lose momentum in not getting ready and up to date for electric vehicles, autonomous cars, hybrids, telematics, connectivity and new software platforms. You will stay behind the competition, behind the changing needs of consumers and behind on training and new management strategies. 

Today’s “real authority” needs to be challenged with facts and ideas. And if they refuse to take action, then you know where you will be in a few years: in a very deep hole with little hope of getting out. 

This is tough talk. But as an industry, we must start having tough discussions. Too many businesses, careers and families are being harmed by the inertia of a mindset that is, quite frankly, out of touch. 

You and your team deserve a fighting chance to thrive in the future.  

They have a right to go for the banana!  

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