You are starting to see some progress on your new-year strategic initiatives. Terrific! But, beware of Complacency! Once you’re making progress, the next step is to consolidate those changes by making the changes part of the fabric of the company. Once your initial round of changes has become institutionalized, or part of the every day operations of the company, then you’re free to change some more. You can’t let up and allow complacency to return.
Consider this mid 19070’s story about former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Winston Lord, who, at that time was the Director of the State Department Policy Planning Staff. Mr. Lord wrote a paper and gave it to Kissinger to read. A couple of days later, Kissinger told Lord: “I think you could do better.” Lord took the paper back, worked on it some more and gave it back to Kissinger, who, after a couple of days, told Lord: “I still think you could do better.” This whole process was repeated nine times, and finally Lord brought the paper back to Kissinger, telling him “Henry, I’ve beaten my brains out – this is the ninth draft. I know it’s the best I can do: I can’t possibly improve one more word.” Kissinger responded: “Okay, I’ll read it now.”
The lesson is that every change is a lot of work, but even if you’ve done a lot, more still needs to be done. Don’t sit on your laurels. Keep thinking of how you can refine the change and advance it. Every organization has a natural tendency to slide back to the status quo. Your role as a leader is to provide a backstop for organizational backsliding.