Sometimes, the problem is that things are just fine.
I love to ask the question, “What’s the problem we’re trying to solve?” It encourages us to frame the problem better or to seek clarity that will lead to a productive conversation. But sometimes, trying to answer that question has stumped me because it forces me to say, “Things are fine.” And, if they are fine, how can there be a problem?
The process works, the work gets done, code is delivered, people are busy, new business is happening, etc. All of these things happen, and they aren’t broken. They’re working!
And yet, my mind often wonders, “What if they could work better?” What if the problem is that things are fine—not awesome or even really good.
Better than Fine
One of Atomic’s values is “Give a Shit,” which means (among other things) pushing past the status quo when you see an opportunity to improve.
It can be a hard sell to convince folks to fix something that isn’t broken or to address a problem when the problem is that you’re not satisfied with the status quo. What are some ways to approach this?
- Grow the idea over time. Change is difficult. Convincing folks to change with you can also be difficult if an idea is presented all at once. Sometimes, the best approach is to start with a small seed and feed and water it with new insights, new conversations, or new ways. Eventually, the idea will take root and begin to grow rapidly.
- Look for ways to make quantitative or qualitative data visible. You might not have key performance indicators (KPIs) defined or survey data to consult. But a quick survey of your colleagues or tangential quantitative data might be enough to convince others of the need for more consideration.
- Find additional champions. If you’re thinking of a new opportunity, chances are good that others are considering it, too. Look for those folks, and combine your voices in order to spark new conversations and reach more people.
- Propose an experiment or a pilot. This might not work for all situations, especially if it involves a financial investment or personnel issues. But for process or organizational issues, the investment in an experiment might pay off.
- Remember that sometimes ideas fail. That shouldn’t scare you from trying to move beyond “fine.” If it happens, you, your champions, and your organization should consider what you can take from the failure as you move forward. Failing is a sign of progress as long as you don’t backslide into inaction.
Looking for new ways of doing things can benefit an organization and make employees feel like they really “Own It.” Acknowledging that sometimes being fine is not good enough can lead to progress–and hopefully improvements. Even if a challenge to “fine” turns out to be unsuccessful, the learning that accompanies your efforts can encourage progress.