No matter if you are a multi-national conglomerate or a one-person shop, the operating model of ‘maintaining the status quo’ is easiest way to run your business. It’s also the worst possible decision you can make.

Doing what you’ve always done, even if it appears to be working, should never be your answer to the question of where you take your business. The status quo is defined as: the current state of things. It doesn’t matter if your current state is rich and famous, the forces of industry, global trends, evolving opinions and the appetite for information will quickly change your environment and therefore change your relative place in it. If you have a the thinnest smart phone in the market it won’t be long before a competitor comes up with one slightly thinner.

Challenging the status quo is just as important in my world of professional services. My offerings evolve as my client’s needs evolve, which means that my portfolio this year is not going to be as relevant next year. I need to improve what I do and how I do it so I can build my business and deliver value to my clients.

In organizations that are not as agile, challenging the status quo is difficult and it takes a long time and a lot of convincing up and down the scales of management. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It may feel like you are trying to steer a battleship instead of a speed boat but your efforts in shaking things up, even little things, sets the stage for innovation and corporate evolution.

It’s important you are prepared for the inevitable eye rolls and deep sighs you’ll get as you say things like, ‘hey, what if we didn’t do that anymore?’ or ‘so, this problem always seems to crop up. How can we fix it at the root?’.  They will come- believe me, I’ve had my share of arms being thrown up, exasperation rolling off of my clients and partners as they think about how much work it would be to accomplish the crazy thing I just suggested. Lean into these responses- if there’s that much resistance at first it means that the thing you’re challenging is ingrained in the way your company operates. If it didn’t need to change you wouldn’t have brought it up in the first place. You should congratulate yourself for having the courage to talk about it, and not sweep it under the rug like you probably want to.

When you’re shaking up the status quo you’re moving your company forward, in some cases inch by inch. But even an inch is better than nothing. Here are some ways to identify when the status quo should be thrown out the window:

  • You’re doing things and you can’t point to exactly why you’re doing it

  • You’ve implemented all the ‘proper’ things a business should do but you’re not getting the results you want

  • Your team is not on the same page on how to do basic things

  • You dread a task because it is mind-numbing and you get nothing out of it

Let’s imagine you’ve identified a process that needs to change. Follow these steps to shake the status quo:

  • Write a few lines down about the process you want to change.

  • List all of the inputs and outputs to the process and map how they are connected.

  • See if you can isolate exactly why you started doing this thing in the first place and decide if that is still relevant.

  • Refine the relevant goal of the process, including exactly what outputs you need to achieve it.

  • Design a new process that considers input requirements, critical elements, system integrations and performance measures.

  • Pitch it to your team and convince them that testing this crazy idea is better than doing nothing.

I will leave you with one final sentiment. Change is hard. It’s hard to initiate, it’s hard to manage and it’s hard to accept. If your path to shaking the status quo feels like nailing Jell-o to the wall, don’t give up. There’s a little bit of Jell-o sitting on top of the nail. When you put a second nail in there will be a little bit of Jell-o on that too. That’s more than no Jell-o, and let’s be honest, a bit of Jell-o is always better than no Jell-o.