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Two Useful Tools to Challenge the "Status Quo"

by Cheryl Lyon-Hislop

Last week was a busy week!

I had an exceptionally busy week last week. I ran a two-day development centre for 8 high- potential Millennials in Team Leading or Supervisory positions. I spent another day and a half summarising observations, and another day and a half working through one-to-one feedback. Long days, and fun. However, it left a whole range of questions running through my head all weekend.

I had a whole bunch of talented people wanting to challenge the status quo in a company. The particular exercise I’d designed to assess how much personal risk they’d show in stepping up; where they had an opportunity to bring more ideas to the table, left them feeling that innovation wasn’t at the forefront of their employee’s minds. Innovation and continual improvement is high on the company’s agenda, that I do know, but this group felt that radical change only happens when something goes really wrong. In effect, the status quo was a much more safe place in which to operate, as perpetuated by the majority.

Disrupt or become Obselete...

This group didn’t want that. They wanted to disrupt; think bigger.

They want to know how they can prepare for a disruption to their industry that they can’t predict.

They want to know how to attract different types of customers.

They want their company to remain relevant in the marketplace.

Maintaining the status quo doesn’t help people or companies to grow. In fact, you shouldn’t wait until you are in a difficult situation. Change needs to happen well before the crisis occurs. If you're doing things the way you always have, you know by now that someone, somewhere is figuring out how to make you obsolete.

Breaking down Barriers

I asked questions in the feedback sessions. How could they become more empowered, and what could they do to break down barriers? How could they gain further buy-in from their teams? How can they challenge the fixed views from those who resist, or who give the rundown of what didn’t work in the past, and who are stuck? What do they think is the best next potent step? And how can they take that step (within reason…)?

Lots of useful ideas were shared. I have some work to complete today to pull this together for a meeting. I now see the development centre as a catalyst for organisational change, not just personal individual change.

There are a couple of tools I use with my team when we feel stuck, or when we realise the status quo isn't going to cut the mustard. I've shared these below to get you thinking about what "status quo" may mean to you, and how you can challenge problems that arise.

"There are no limits"

Let loose and think about the “status quo” and describe it within your team, or with a colleague. Pick out one or two main challenges you need to work on to adapt to remain relevant.

Imagine your ideal scenario in solving your challenge. You have no limits. Set your thought process free; the impossible could be possible – with a little bit of creativity!

Once you have defined your problem, write as many sentences as you can (aim for 20) that begin with “IF ONLY…”

Once you have your list, find ways of making at least 25% of your sentences possible by asking “HOW COULD WE DO THAT?” The answer “WE CAN”T” is NOT ALLOWED – find a way, no matter how bizarre it sounds – the more outrageous the better.

Challenge the Rules

The “Challenge the Rules” tool will get you to question the well-established rules that you work within, to help you generate new and fresh ideas.

  • Think about your company and write down the rules that underlie the way things are done, e.g. “we don’t have the budget to make any changes” or “we don’t provide that service.”
  • Now imagine that these rules no longer exist. Brainstorm ideas for solving your challenge, remembering that you are limited to what you think is feasible.
  • Look through your ideas. Are any worth breaking the rules for? Can any be adapted to work within the rules?

Get a small project team together to flesh out the details for your top three "can do's", create an action plan, and carry out. Don’t forget to review and evaluate your ROI! This is a “rinse and repeat” process.

Let me know if this blog also prompted your thinking about your own development. We’re used to coaching individuals as well as teams, and you can share your own tools/techniques below.

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