If you think constant change is some-thing new, step back in time with me to the days of the Old West. Let’s see what happened in Yesterday Town on the fateful day when change could no longer be ignored.

Dark clouds gathered on the horizon on the day that the “Change Posse” rode into Yesterday Town. They stormed the town from the West with the weapons of Facts, Fear, and Force, demanding that people change.

Up and down the streets, the town is institutions were operating as usual…the Last Chance Saloon, the Rusty Razor Barber Shop, the Old Horse Business Model Corral, and even the Now-Is-the-Time Remedy Salesman were all entrenched in the past.

In front of the jail, the Marshal leaned back in his chair talking with the Deputy. “This town needs some life,” the Marshal said. “We haven’t grown in three years. No new people are coming to town, and some of our businesses have closed down and moved out. How the heck will we get back to where we were when the town was founded? We’ll be rolling with the tumbleweeds before long if we don’t change.”

“Yup,” said the Deputy. “Why can’t we just get people to change? You’d think the Posse could frighten people to a new level of urgency!”

In the street in front the Last Chance Saloon, the Now-Is-the-Time Remedy Salesman pitched his wares to anyone who would listen. “Come and get it, folks!” he said. “My Change Sloganeering Tonic will take care of whatever ails you! You’ll feel so good you won’t care what’s happening! Step right up and get yours now!” As he turned to his assistant, he whispered, “And they’ll be ready to buy a new remedy next time I come to town!”

On the long porch of the Last Chance Saloon, the Piano Player entertained the dwindling crowd. “Hey, play something new,” yelled the Gambler. “We’re tired of that old song.”

“Sorry,” said the Piano Player. “I just play what they tell me to play. I haven’t learned a new song in years. People here like the old stuff, even if it’s pretty stale.” And he thought, “Someday I’ll find a place where they’ll be happy to have me write my own music.”

Down at the Rusty Razor Barber Shop, the Judge was getting a trim and a shave. “So, Your Honor, what do you think we need to do to get this town in shape?” asked the Barber.

“Well,” said the Judge, “our people are afraid. They’re afraid to stay in this town, and they’re afraid to leave for something new. They need somebody to be brave enough to go first.”

“Why don’t you go first, Judge?” said the Barber.

“Me? I’ve been here too long. I’m used to the old ways. I can hold out. Why don’t you go first?

“Me? I’ve got a wife and 10 kids to support. I have to stay here, no matter how bad it gets. You go first!”

“No!” said the Judge. “You go first!”

“No!” said the Barber. “You go first!”

And on it went…
A little farther along the street, the Prospector stopped in at the Same Old General Store to get supplies. “How’s the mining going?” asked the Store Clerk.

“It’s been good,” said the Prospector, “but I’ve mined all the gold in Them Thar Hills. I’m off to find another stake. If I hang around here, I’ve got no hope, like everybody else. I like starting over. Thinking like a beginner keeps me young and healthy!” The Clerk waved goodbye and went back to looking for new customers.

And that was the state of Yesterday Town as the Change Posse rode in. As they approached, doors slammed shut. The curtains were drawn at the Dusty Discount Hotel. The Poor Town Bum hurried to hide in the alley. The music stopped in the saloon. The Marshal and Deputy stood up. The smell of fear filled the air.

But down the street, something new was happening. There was an uprising in the Three Rs of Change Meeting House…

Among the citizens who were forward-thinking, a new theory emerged. They agreed that their change efforts were failing because of the three Fs: Facts, Fear, and Force. The new rules suggested that we can’t get people in the change game by telling them the facts, by scaring them about the future, or by commanding them to change. Those things hadn’t worked in the past, and they weren’t going to work in the future.

The winning hand in the new game of change included three concepts from Alan Deutschman’s book, Change or Die. It became clear that winners replaced the three Fs – Facts, Fear, and Force – with the three Rs: Relate, Repeat, and Reframe. These rules of the new game of change are the key to reinventing the town.

  • The first rule is that people generally don’t change their behaviors unless they can relate to people who believe in them. Small groups of peers who hold each other accountable to change and support each other in the struggle can unleash a sense of possibility.
  • The second rule is that it takes time and effort to learn, practice, and master new skills. It’s with repetition that we achieve mastery, and before long, the skill at hand becomes second nature.
  • The third R is reframe. All of us have a mental picture of how the world works and how we fit into it. Most of the people in Yesterday Town live in a world that no longer exists. To reframe means to make new mental models of how the world works and how each person fits into the new picture.

The new rules in the Three Rs of Change Meeting House assure players that they are in control of their future and no longer need rescuing. By Relating, Repeating, and Reframing change, people begin to believe that they can lead the reinvention of a boomtown and stave off possible evolution into a ghost town.

May 23, 2012