When status quo becomes status slow

"We cannot be content with the status quo. Any business today that embraces the status quo as an operating principle is going to be on a death march." ― Howard Shultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks.

Two well-known examples where organisations didn’t move fast enough were Nokia (phones) and Kodak (cameras) who were the market leaders in their respective industry, but completely missed the opportunity in changing to the new technologies of smartphones and digital cameras. This resulted in both organisations quickly losing market leadership and the potential of billions in sales.

Rather than sticking to a broad organisational context, I believe we also shouldn’t accept the status quo at an individual level with regards to how we work. How much do we do on a day to day basis could we be doing better? Not necessarily radically different, just better. But let’s face it, for most of us accepting the status quo is easier than dealing with the uncertainty of change due to variations of:

  • Questioning what if the change fails?
  • Being stuck in the syndrome of that’s how I’ve always done it
  • Lacking confidence that I’m never going to get promoted
  • Convincing ourselves that no-one really cares
  • Believing I’m the best there is, they can’t do without me
  • Or just I’m too busy, I don’t have the time

There’s also a view of “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” but that doesn’t mean we should be complacent or not evolve as new opportunities appear. What do I mean? Here’s two examples.

  • Multitasking versus monotasking – while some people assume they’re being more effective when they multitask, besides small menial tasks requiring little brainpower (like walking and talking), it has been proven to be inefficient due to the extra toll it puts on our brain. Monotasking is more productive for tasks requiring some degree of thought.

However, mobile technology has enabled us to also get more done in the gaps (like checking email while waiting for a meeting). This isn’t really multitasking or monotasking, just leveraging technology to work smarter.

  • Flexible working – in some organisations the mere thought of staff working from home was once frowned upon (concern of if I can’t see them then I’m not sure what they’re up to). Now for many organisations the way to lead and mobile technology have evolved to the extent where it’s a fundamental part of strategy to retain and attract top talent.

I like this quote from the book Leaders' Ladder by Israelmore Ayivor: “Leaders don’t fall in love with mediocrity. The status quo isn’t their desire to maintain but to improve.”

We often get comfortable with the status quo, even though the reality is technology is changing so fast that leading practice could change multiple times throughout each year. The challenge is to either stay ahead of the game, keep up or fall behind.

Think about what’s within your control with how you work where you could be challenging the status quo of? It could be as simple as taking action to get on top of your email or more challenging like helping to improve the meetings you attend to be more effective. What can you do differently to avoid status quo turning into status slow?