Change is an easy word to say but the principle behind it is extremely complicated. Everything we are taught, we practice until we can do it in our sleep. This is one reason some firefighters have a hard time changing. A perfect example is something I realize I still do. As a CPR instructor I keep up with the updates but I have noticed something I consistently revert to in the event of a real full arrest. New standards have simplified the hand placement however, I always find the rib cage, run my finger to the xyphoid process and go two fingers above it. This is a simple example of one of the many skills we are suppose to practice to mastery and change as “better” ways are found.
Beyond going with our training pattern, another resistance to change occurs due to repetitive results . Positive results by specific actions, whether right or wrong, are often picked over and over again because to the person making the choice, they have successfully fixed the issue. Examples of this behavior are ample throughout the fire service, more specifically in the LODD’s and near miss reports. Something as simple as forgetting helmet straps to not wearing gloves on an extrication may get you by for several years with no problem. Every time you chose that action and it either reaps positive results or fails to reap a negative result, it becomes more and more valid of an option. This behavior often goes on long enough until you teach it to someone else who has less fortune and suffers for the practice.
The third major resistance to change may be the easiest to recognize but the hardest to correct. Attitude towards change is based out of many petty issues but the biggest is rooted in fear of the unknown. As we progress through our career, we become accustomed to how things work. Promoting change creates waves, requires critical thinking and analyzing of unfamiliar territory and takes many out of their comfort zone. Coupled with repetitive training and positive results feeding the old saying of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” gets thrown around a lot. The truth about our resistance to change is that times are changing, rank structuring is evolving, economies are requiring out of the box thinking….. without change we will find our place in history by limiting our future.
Next article will discuss how the company officer can identify resistance to change and easy the processes by becoming an enabler.