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Status Quo

The status quo is defined as the current or existing state or condition. In plain English, it is how things are today.

There is an old adage that the definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting different results. Getting better requires that something is done differently. If a process never changes, the output of that process will not change either.

On the other hand, one of the basic tenets of Lean is that processes must be standardized. That means that we must embrace the status quo in our production processes.

That makes the status quo the enemy of progress and the friend of quality, delivery, and cost.

The status quo is damaging only in the mid to long-term. In the short term, you want the standard quo. Standardization is the act of locking in the status quo. Industrial discipline is the act of enforcing the status quo.

That short term stability is a good thing. It locks in quality, and makes an operation predictable. It also reduces the cost attributable to variation.

But even if the current output is top notch, it is not enough. Other companies are racing to catch up and pass you. Standing still, in effect, is the same as moving backwards.

As you look forward in time, no process can, or even should, stay the same for long. People’s brains are miraculous machines, and are constantly coming up with new ideas. Those ideas should be used to challenge the status quo, and reset it to a new level.

So, the bottom line is that we should embrace the status quo in companies only as long as it takes to lock in a process and get good at it. Once a change stabilizes, it is again time to challenge the status quo and move forward.

  • Don’t constantly challenge the status quo. You can only move forward from a stable platform.
  • Don’t sit on that stable platform for too long. Others are always racing to catch up and pass you.


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