Listening for the telltale signs of "status quo management" is the key to moving your business forward.
"We've always done it this way."
Of all the things people say in business, this is the one that gets under my skin the most. Other variations include "this is how the client wants it" and "that's just the way we do things." Each of these is literally someone telling you they are either too dumb to think of ways to make things better, or too lazy to try.
Think about the times you've heard these phrases, or worse yet, said them yourself. Their only result is to immediately shut down any possibility of innovation and creativity; improvements of product and process are instantly dead--along with any culture of creativity.
What's the impact of "status quo management"? When I took over a client several years ago, I was told they absolutely loved the agency. However, only a week into the job, my first meeting with the CMO began with the ominous statement that she would be putting the business out to review. Fortunately, I was able to buy the time to fix things, but for a few moments, I wondered what I had just stepped into, and how everything I had been told could be so completely wrong.
At the working level, the agency's relationship was extremely close; so close that it eventually became part of the problem. Rather than pushing the client, the agency had simply become an extension of the client's team. Missing was any healthy tension, innovation and reinvention. While the day-to-day clients were happy that we made things easy, at the senior-level, there was a clear recognition that a serious problem existed.
Diagnosing this was actually remarkably simple. At every turn, I kept hearing from my own team, "we've always done it this way." I'd push them again and again to make certain that everything they were doing made sense. Often, people would agree with me that it didn't, but they'd finish their sentence with "this is how the client wants it." Everyone was working so hard trying to give the clients exactly what they asked for, that they stopped thinking about what actually was being done, and what purpose it might be serving.
Fixing this culture was also remarkably easy, though, I'm sure, very uncomfortable for most of the team. Every time I heard people utter "status quo management" terms, I would dig deeper and push harder. Symbolically, I started fining people a dollar "every time they used one of the above statements. After only a few times of going back/returning to the client with a better solution, and finding them not only receptive, but grateful, people began to get the message.
Constant reinvention is absolutely essential to the long-term success of any business, and the time to push convention is when things are going well. Reward those who are looking to constantly improve, and always be on the lookout for the nefarious catchphrases of "status quo management."