Being Comfortable – The 8th Deadly Sin

You might think “what about sloth, isn’t that the same thing?” Sloth refers to activity levels. Being comfortable means you are happy where you are and don’t change. I played judo for a few years and I had a great coach one time tell me if you want to submit a fighter you have to make them feel comfortable. If they are comfortable they don’t move and you can work your technique especially if the opponent is tired.

Much like judo, if you’re too comfortable in business you will get “chocked out.” I worked at Dell Inc in 2004 and they were the #1 most admired company in the US. Dell was very comfortable being at the top but 6 years later and they have lost the competitive advantages they had in the 90s and actually don’t make anything anymore. Dell got comfortable and just let things go. I distinctly remember an executive was asked the question “What about Apple; how are you going to compete with their products?” The executives response was “What Apple makes in a year we make in a month, they really aren’t on the radar.”

The moral of the story is don’t be comfortable with what you have. It’s very easy to prevent being too comfortable and that’s to constantly experiment and try to get better. The first step is to make sure senior management and even the top level guys at the company are ok with the idea. The next step is to give your folks a problem solving lens. Teach then the principles and the spirit behind Lean problem solving and design. Next let them experiment and encourage experimentation not successes. Obviously the experiments need to be thought out but if you are doing the experiments correctly you will get some experiments that fail. Don’t worry you are on the right track. Make sure the experiments align with the company’s overall strategy and you have a recipe for never being too comfortable.

How comfortable are you? What are some ways you can stop from being uncomfortable and encourage progress?

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