in Leadership, Process Improvement, Quality Improvement

Improvement, Leadership and “Status quo Defenders”

‘Status quo’ means ‘existing state of affairs’. Status quo is popular because it has worked so far – and hence has many defenders. At workplace, people constantly defend the status-quo because as humans – we fear change. We don’t like uncertainty that comes with change. We love comfort.

A few years back, when I was working on a process improvement initiative, I heard a senior leader saying, “We are too small for having rigorous processes in place. And, our clients have never asked for such processes”. I was amazed at the confidence with which status quo was being defended. When senior leaders model such behaviors, the teams only follow/comply.

In pursuit of improvement, it is important to identify “status quo defenders”. Watch out for these statements that they often dish out:

  • “You know, we tried this before. It didn’t work.”
  • “This is how we have been doing this so far.”
  • “This has always worked for us.”
  • “It can’t be done. It is too costly for us to do it.”
  • “We are time-constrained to do it.”
  • “We are too small for doing that.”
  • “But why do we want to change it? It is working OK!”
  • “Top Management will never agree for it”
  • “We have never done it before”
  • “Let’s park it for now. We will revisit it later.”
  • “Our clients/people will not accept this.”
  • “Check with accounts if they have budgeted it.”
  • “We are not in that league.”
  • “It will create unnecessary overhead.”
  • “We have too many constraints”

Leadership plays a crucial role. If senior leaders within the organization keep defending status quo (or allow people to do that), they are setting wrong example. Accepting that there is a problem is first step of any improvement initiative. Transformational leaders challenge the status quo because they know – if we keep doing things the way we have always been doing, we will only be as good as we currently are. Leaders also need to build a culture where people know that it is fine to challenge the normal.

Unfortunately, marketplace does not wait for you to change. Instead, it forces you to change. It is therefore, a sound strategy to keep improving your practices and stay comfortable with change.

Have you heard these defending statements before? I have.

  1. Facts, facts and facts is what Mr.Tanmay Vora always presents in his write-ups. Managements/Leaders sometimes take Process as a non-profitable or non-productive work products. But there comes a time for every organization when they start feeling the obvious need for the same. Better late than never – is attitude what needs to be addopted at that time.
    Quality and Processes always goes hand-in-hand. Testing is not productive or worthy w/o being wrapped with processes.
    Thanks Dr.QA! 🙂

    Have a nice weekend.
    Jay Chhaya

    • Jay – you are right when you say that process is treated as a non-productive work – but eventually its importance is realized. Which is why thinking about processes is important when you are starting up as an organization. (as indicated in earlier post)


  2. Very true. We can also add statement like “Our competitor are not doing same so why should we?” or “lets start but I am not sure if this would succeed” – instead of spreading positive energy and helping for success.. it breaks the morale.

    • Thanks for adding those phrases Maulik – I agree that leaders should not put down ideas without thinking about it. When an idea is put down first place, it kills morale’ and initiatives.


    • Dan – Thanks for the comment. I am so glad you liked the phrases. When you deal with process improvement, you come across these phrases all the time.


  3. I used to be a “status quo defender” but have overcome that tendency with some help from mentors over the years. Like a dog returning to his vomit though, every so often when a new idea is proposed my first feeling is that it was proposed just for the sake of proposing a new idea and really will go no where. Fortunately, I have restrained myself from putting it down early. But it never gets easier to do that. Does anyone else feel that? Or what are ways that you keep that kind of feeling in check?
    Thanks for the thoughtful post,

    • @Nate – Thanks for sharing your experience. What you mentioned happens to almost every individual – because as humans, we fear change. The whole cycle of process improvement (and its successful implementation) is a lot of change management. May be, I would cover the topic of how to overcome the “defending-mindset” as an individual in my future blog posts.

      Stay tuned!


Comments are closed.