Down With the Status Quo!

In order to reach for excellence and put a better plan into action, you must first understand why people cling so tightly to the way things have always been done.

A great deal of what does and does not happen in the typical workplace has very little to do with whether or not a proposal is a good idea. It's not that influential people are opposed to building a better mouse trap. The problem lies in the fact that, for a number of reasons, people are more concerned with maintaining the status quo than they are with achieving excellence.

In fairness to those who dig in their heels and hold the line, it should be pointed out that many a new idea may sound good at a high level, but was not examined in sufficient detail prior to being proposed. Because of this, the ardent supporter may not realize that there are unforeseen consequences that could actually do more harm than good. Consequently, the first and most important consideration when you're reaching for greatness is to think your plans through in great detail before proposing them to others. Still, this alone is not enough to eliminate resistance.

More and more, we've become a risk averse society. This is due in part to the fact that it's easier to establish blame and find a scapegoat than it is to actually solve a problem. However, a side effect of this is that people have become afraid to try anything new or out of the ordinary, lest it fail and they find themselves the focus of the blame game. This leads them to resist any new idea for which they could be held accountable.

Another common reason for opposition to new ideas has its roots in peer pressure. Whether you're a manager, or a worker without explicit authority, your new way of doing things might well make a significant contribution to the quality or productivity of your group. It might also require a bit more work, or a greater attention to detail.

Just because you realize that the success of the company creates greater opportunities for you personally, it's unrealistic to expect this perspective from everyone. A great many people are simply lazy. They've found a rut in which they can sit and do the bare minimum required for their paycheck. Imagine their dismay when someone like you comes along and starts improving the quality of your work. It's only a matter of time before someone comes up and asks why their efforts aren't up to par with yours. This not only makes them look bad by comparison, they now have to work harder.

The desire to avoid peer pressure extends beyond the everyday worker. It applies to managers and even entire departments. If one group has made significant improvements, others may be afraid of comparing unfavorably. Consequently, opposition to your new idea might have its beginnings in a distant corner of your company.

Before you can lead your people to excellence, you must understand and then eliminate the attraction of the status quo. No business is ever secure in the marketplace, and companies who go under put a lot of people out of work.

Look for examples in your industry, or one close enough for people to relate to, where a business failed due to lack of innovation, quality and productivity. Then draw a line not only from the collapse of a company to the end of an individual's paycheck, but also in the opposite direction. Poor, struggling companies simply don't have many resources to share with their people in terms of salaries and other perks. Rich and successful companies do.

Whether you're leading from the front by authority or the middle by example, you'll see a significant change in how quickly people embrace new ideas once they understand how it affects them personally. Once you've learned to generate this enthusiasm, go forth and tear down the status quo in favor of higher productivity and better mouse traps, until the pursuit of excellence itself becomes the standard by which your people live.

Tech And Leadership Articles