The Devil You Don’t Know Is You
One bad output may not be enough to inspire change in your organization. Consistently shaky outputs however set off an alarm bell that – something’s gotta change. Occasionally (polite for rarely), there’s a simple fix: a super bad apple that needs replacing or a product line that needs to be dropped. But even these are indicative of bigger issues. Projects, products and/or revenue that isn’t up to snuff inspires change-makers to ask – “why is this happening.” With this trigger the curious, the inspired and those who decide to assume responsibility set out on a people, process and price investigation. They gaze backwards and forwards, inside and outside for how’s and why’s. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fast. And it’s an itch that’s hard not to scratch.
The challenge for many in this situation is one of position. Change that’s initiated at the middle is hard and made harder when contracts are signed and money is still rolling in. Many above you (and beside you) will ask – “Why are you rocking that boat?” “Things will never be perfect.” “The checks are cashing.” And that folks is what catastrophe and failure initially look like. It starts in the black, when things are still “OK”. In the blink of an eye, it’s way too late and you are “yes-ing” clients to death, employees are jumping ship and morale is low.
Innovation dies at the crossroads of doing what you are told and forgetting to ask why. Next time, Phase 2 and backlog are often code words for – “we’re probably not doing that, ever.” There’s nothing malicious at hand here, it’s an artifact of old business and old thinking. What you need to remember is that while today is very clearly your responsibility – so are tasks, strategies and policies inherited from yesterdays’ and those before you. The challenge is making tomorrow your responsibility. Changing how things are done will never be your job – unless you make it your job. The devil you know is better than the one you don’t, except when the devil you don’t know is you.