You would think that bad business results would be enough to shake people out of complacency, but complacency is much more common than we think. In the current economic climate, you might assume that workers would be too worried to be complacent.
But that’s not true. Author John Kotter, author of Leading Change and A Sense of Urgency, estimates that 50% of companies fail to establish a great enough sense of urgency to succeed at transformation efforts.
People gravitate towards doing whatever possible to alleviate their anxieties and worries, and will go to any lengths to avoid discomfort. Usually that means, don’t rock the boat, hang on to what used to work. That’s human nature.
Success Leads to Complacency
Often complacency’s invisible, both to managers and leaders but also to the very people involved. You may yourself be complacent and not realize it. That’s because success produces complacency, and for peace of mind, we often focus on success rather than failures or gaps.
Complacency happens on an organizational level, a team level, and all the way down to the personal level. An organization’s many years of prosperity could have ended a decade ago, and yet the complacency created by that prosperity can live on. The people involved don’t see it.
A smart, savvy manager can be oblivious to the fact that two levels below him in the hierarchy are people so complacent that his dreams of career advancement will never be realized. A person can easily live in delusional memories of success and not be aware that they are dangerously close to complacency. It’s human nature to seek routine and maintain the status quo.
False Sense of Urgency
The problem is augmented by the fact that we often replace a true sense of urgency and purpose with frantic activity and unfocused anxiety. That’s a false or misguided sense of urgency. It’s as prevalent today as complacency itself only more insidious.
Here are questions to ask about yourself:
- How high is the sense of urgency among relevant people around you?
- How do you know this?
- If it is too low, why?
- What exactly are you doing to change this fact?
- If you aren’t able to change the level of urgency among your people, what are the consequences for your organization?
- Your career?
Hmmm, got me thinking. What about you? Are you being complacent?