When Consistency Is Not a Virtue in the Workplace
Nineteenth-century Transcendentalist poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” The operative word here is “foolish.” Consistency, like most things, can be good or bad.
If your company sells premium coffee, consistently high quality is mandatory for your success. Then again, if your employees consistently come to work late, you have a serious problem. Foolish consistency can also mean staying with outdated processes for no good reason. The key is examining the situation and determining whether the consistency is wise or foolish.
What are the sturdiest foundations underneath personal and business success? Some of them include honesty, transparency, and hard work. These are qualities that should be consistent, even though how they’re implemented may vary over time. The things that make you successful are the things you want to practice with consistency, because they’ll become more ingrained over time and your customers and co-workers will find you reliable and easy to work with.
Suppose you want to improve your tennis game, so you hire a coach. The coach analyzes your swing and learns where there is room for improvement. He or she will help you work on that backhand or offensive net game to the point where it’s consistent enough to allow you to think strategically so that your overall game improves. This is good consistency.
Bad consistency is often the failure to adapt to changing conditions. If you’re old enough, you might remember Mr. Tudball and Mrs. Wiggins, two recurring characters on “The Carol Burnette Show” in the 1970s. Both the bumbling Mr. Tudball and his secretary, the ditzy Mrs. Wiggins were paragons of consistency. The problem was that they were remarkably consistent in doing things badly.
This kind of consistency can be all too easy to fall into in the workplace. For example, suppose everyone uses a slow, manual process involving paper forms because that’s how the process was originally developed, and that’s what everyone understands. Never mind that the entire process could be automated so that it would only take a fraction of the time and effort. This is bad consistency and can hold your business back significantly.
Ensuring Consistency Where It’s Beneficial
When your team members are caught up on processes that are unnecessarily slow and cumbersome, they’re not devoting energy to important things, like customer service, innovation, and product development. Most businesses have countless processes that could be streamlined and (at least partly) automated to be faster, simpler, and more accurate. Breaking out of ruts created by needlessly inefficient processes may cause some temporary grumbling, but long term benefits will quickly make up for it. Success depends upon having tools that allow processes to be as easy, fast, and accurate as possible.
Free People to Focus and Adapt
When your team is no longer worried about long, outdated, drawn-out processes, they have more time to devote to their core job functions. When the workflow for publishing a report is online and easy to follow, with transparency at every step, your copywriters can worry more about making the content great and less about bureaucracy. If processing a sale can be done electronically, your sales team won’t have to worry about losing papers, or a prospect losing interest once they see there’s a mountain of paper forms to fill out and sign. When customer service information pops up automatically on your CSR’s screen when a particular phone number calls, far less time is wasted looking up information.
The Right Software Tools Make Positive Consistency Easy
PerfectForms is software that allows non-technical users to create powerful electronic forms and workflows, with an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface. To ease the transition, electronic forms can be made to look exactly like existing paper forms, complete with the right colors, fonts, and logos. When related forms are linked into electronic workflows, you eliminate manual hand-offs of paper forms and all the risks associated with them, and you speed up the process considerably. You can even create an audit trail to ensure process compliance at every step.
Better still, you can sign up for a free trial of PerfectForms and learn for yourself how easy it is to use. You’re also sure to get an idea of the countless ways it can be put to work in your organization. With PerfectForms, you’ll create the right kind of consistency, while doing away with consistently slow and error-prone processes, making your company leaner and more competitive.