Disrupting the Status Quo
I hear the term status quo a lot, especially from thought leaders in terms of disrupting it. I agree with that sentiment so much so that disrupting the status quo was actually the tagline for my business a few years ago. So what is the status quo and why should it be disrupted? What does it really have to do with you and your business?
sta·tus quo (stādəs ˈkwō) – The current situation, the way things are now. However in today’s context it also tends to imply a sub-optimal state of affairs. It’s the way things are in contrast to how much better things could be.
I find that most organizations can use a disruption of the status quo because things are not working as well as they could be. Whether it is improved employee engagement, increased productivity, more influence within your industry, better collaboration or improved communication, there is often at least one area that needs a good old-fashioned disruption.
A few years ago when I was consulting, I was in my last two weeks with a client that I had worked with for several years. I asked how I could best help in my last two weeks and the VP responded by saying just stick with the status quo. That was his way of telling me to just show up. He wasn’t saying it because I had not been contributing or working while there, but I read between the lines that he did not have any need for me to work on anything for him. That organization was actually the one that inspired the title of my book, The Corporate Detox.
Another status quo I’ve seen at clients over the years are meetings that start late with a majority showing up 10 minutes late and project managers recapping everything that had been missed. This was frustrating for those of us who were on time and a poor use of the organizations resources (time and money).
The status quo for an executive might be a lack of shared vision, the ball getting dropped, missed deadlines, lost opportunities, tension, lack of communication or at least meaningful communication, and/or high turnover.
Now I ask you, what is the status quo at your organization? I.e., where does your corporate culture passively settle for something you know is not as good as it should be? I want you to really think about what habits and situations are systemic within your organization. Take a minute, grab a pen, and a piece of scratch paper and write out your description of the status quo where you are right now.
The following are the high level steps it will take to disrupt the status quo:
One thing at a time
Disrupting the status quo is essentially creating change and change can be hard, especially changes to human behavior. Since you will find that most of your business problems are really people problems, the change that are you going to make is most likely around how people behave, think, and work. Since this is hard enough with one person (think of a change you tried to make for yourself,) it is that much tougher with lots of people. That is why you have to address one change or one disruption at a time. Focus time, energy and resources on one thing, do it well, then move on.
Get buy in
Have you ever tried to make a sweeping change by command? “This is how it will be from now on!” It never ends up working the way you thought it would, does it? That’s because even if you have a few amazing people who are going to follow your leadership without worrying about themselves, most people think in terms of “what’s in it for me?” and are scared of change, fearing that it will cause more trouble for them than it will solve. For people to make change they have to want to make the change. So if you want them to get on board, you have to get them to buy into the change.
Once you have the goal in mind, the change you are focused on and the buy-in from those involved it’s time to make sure everyone knows where they are and where they are going. This is going to take a culture of communication. This means that you as the leader are consistently communicating the progress of the change. Are things going as planned? Have you hit a roadblock? Where are you on the road? People will quickly revert back to their old ways and retract their buy in if they don’t know where they are going or where they are. It’s much easier to turn around and go back home than to continue down a dark road with no end in sight.
Stay tuned for more in this series where we will take each step highlighted above and dive deeper into the implementation of each one. If you can’t wait that long email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk more about this and start disrupting your status quo today.