With No Ideal State, Stagnation Sets In

I repeatedly get asked, “Why do we need to have an ideal state?”  There are a few ways I have answered this.  For example, it gives direction for improvement suggestions.  Is it worth working on if we aren’t improving in the direction of the ideal state?

The best reason I give for developing an ideal state is it helps to eliminate stagnation.

How many times have you heard, “Our process is better than it ever has been,” or “Our process is better than industry standard,” or “People benchmark against our process.”  These are just a few comments that throw up a red flag that the organization is satisfied with their process and not continuing to improve.  When digging deeper, the organizations that have grown stagnate have done so because they have no ideal state vision they are striving towards.

It is easier to keep an eye towards improvement when an ideal state has been developed to help give direction to the organization.  If stagnation becomes a problem people can point out the ideal state and question what the organization is doing to get closer to the ideal state.  This should cause a feeling of uneasiness that jump starts more improvement.

Stagnation and complacency becomes the norm when there is no ideal state to help remind and motivate the organization.  Someone might suggest the process is as good as is going to get if there isn’t the defined ideal state to say, “No.  This is where we want to get to.”  In some cases, we may never get to the ideal state, but we must keep moving in that direction.

The next time you see an area or organization that is stagnant in their continuous improvement efforts ask them what their ideal state is.  I would be they don’t have one.

Posted on January 31, 2011, in Tools and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I can’t recall where I recently read that what is desired to keep an organization – or even a team – moving forward is a healthy degree of tension. Emphasis on tension – not unhealthy stress – to keep things moving forward. Having an ideal state to strive toward is certainly one way to keep that tension alive.

    There have been times when I’ve struggled and wondered what the value is of having an ideal state. This post definitely makes a nice case for it.

  2. I’ve seen this syndrome more often than I’d like to admit. Complacency is a dangerous thing and one of the root causes I see is too much work which takes the focus away from improving in favour of ‘getting shit done’

    Organizations drastically underestimate the mental energy it takes to constantly improve. It’s easy to complain about stuff and take no action so discipline and ideal state are really important.

  3. We have seen countless companies who goal is to be #1 and finally achieve this face a terrrible demise. It is not necessarily that these are bad goals but they are not customer focused. So once achieved they natural decline. I believe if you are not improving then you are declining. The journey is a climb up a hill so you are either improving (climbing the hill) or you are falling back. The key to keep you on the climb is to stay customer focused (not competitor focused) and to keep learning (this changes the speed of improvement.

    • Great distinction. It is about the customer and not the competitors. GM is a good example of wanting to just stay ahead of the competitors. When I worked in automotive, I listened to Rick Wagoner say that GM just needed to keep doing what they were doing because they have always been #1 in sales and that was how it would stay. Well, we all saw how that turned out.

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