Change

If you want to defeat any kind of vicious fraud–comply with it literally, adding nothing of your own to disguise its nature.

—Ayn Rand, Spoken by Francisco d’Aconia to Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged

I have been a leader in a number of organizations that were in dire need of change. Building a “case for change” is usually difficult. People seem compelled to continue in their dysfunctional ways despite their inefficacy or discomfort. I have learned that sometimes you have to let things fall to the floor and break before you can pick up the shards and create the change that the organization so desperately needs.

Atlas Shrugged struck me as a testament to this approach to change management, albeit with a more poetic and metaphorical approach. In Rand’s world the capitalistic model is failing due to the parasites of laziness and entitlements. Her approach is to let it collapse on itself and pick up the pieces after the crash. Francisco d’Aconia runs a global network of copper mines. He maintains the illusion that all is well and that his mines are productive . . . until one day they are not. He then utters the profound statement quoted above.

How many times do we protect dysfunctional or broken systems by covering up their true nature? It is human nature to try and see things better than they are. But in so doing we prolong the healing. We tell ourselves that troubled relationships are different than they are. We fail to see things through in our minds to their logical conclusion.

In some ways, I can’t help but wonder if this is not what has happened to our banking industry. A profit model that is based solely on revenue generated by transactions, with no accommodation for the quality or future of that transaction, has been pushed to its logical conclusion. Our regulatory system has complied with the fraud literally and we are watching the collapse of banking as we knew it. I hope that they system that comes along to replace it offers more focus on longer-term investments and less on bonuses and short-term profits.

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