If you commute to work at an office, each morning likely starts with the same routine. You drive to work in traffic. You have the morning radio show tuned in, providing news and traffic updates that you hardly listen to because it is on mainly to provide background noise. Then you arrive at work. After finding a parking spot, you gather your laptop bag, keys and coffee and enter the building to begin the walk past the rows of cubicles and offices that you pass everyday. Before going to your desk, logging in and getting to work – you follow your routine and go first to the break room for a coffee refresh. Then your iPhone rings, cutting through the hum of the vending machines and fluorescent lights. You are being frantically summoned into the executive boardroom to attend an emergency meeting. Your routine was suddenly shattered and now your pulse is racing. Any minor disruption to your routine can increase the flow of adrenaline in your system and cause a slight anxiousness to creep into your psyche. It doesn’t take so much of a disruption as was described above to have an effect. Quite simply put, we do not like change and we love predictability. Hence, it is not a stretch to grasp why complacency can creep into our businesses and our performance expectations.
Complacency can come from having reached a level of comfort that accompanies some degree of achievement and feeling of success. Once an achievement milestone has been reached, we seek to remain where it is comfortable and feels safe. Why risk what we’ve worked hard to get? Complacency develops out of our natural gravitation towards the predictability of a routine over the uncertainty of change.
So why is it that complacency is a cause for concern? The primary issue with complacency is that we cannot remain in a fixed position when our environment is moving and changing around us. To do so guarantees that we will be passed by competing businesses that embrace change. Businesses that do not systematically strive for improvement and growth will plateau, stagnate and then decline. Those businesses that continue to reach beyond the status quo and adapt to evolutionary changes in their environment (markets, economic developments and emerging trends) will thrive.
Plan Strategically, Act With Urgency
To combat complacency, we need to fight it by combining two opposing, yet equally powerful forces.
The first force, utilizing strategy and strategic planning, serves as the vertical stabilizer to help us systematically advance our business. Having a strategy means that we know where we are steering the business and we understand what it is that we want to accomplish in the future. It means that we can define the strategic key outcomes that need to be achieved and map our course to see them to fruition.
The second force that must be harnessed is urgency, specifically urgency in execution. Urgency motivates and substantiates change. Without it, complacency naturally creeps back in.
It may seem on the surface that behaving strategically while acting with urgency is an odd mix to recommend; that the two do not work together in a cohesive manner. Urgency is critical because an organization’s leadership must clearly and concisely define the the change imperative correlated with the strategy as the foundation and input into creating the change management vision. Without the imperative, then it will be very difficult to create the future vision and underlying reasons for change that are required in order to get everyone in the company on board with the vision. Studies on change management indicate that 75% of a company’s management team needs to believe that there is a need for change.
In order to convince employees that change is necessary, the organization’s leadership must therefore develop a sense of urgency around the strategic need for a shift. The urgency becomes the catalyst for change that is needed for employees to rally behind. It becomes the “cause” associated with the strategy.
Breaking the complacency cycle requires an organization to seek change. Effective change requires an open and honest dialogue between leadership, management and employees so that each person in the organization understands the strategic change imperative – whether it is changes in competitive marketplace conditions or an economic downturn.