Why businesses can't afford to say "we've always done it this way"

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Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was a pioneer crucial to the development of computer programming. But she's also credited with a quote that resonates far and wide across many different industries.

"The most dangerous phrase in our language is 'we’ve always done it this way'."

It's a reminder to businesses that while they might have long-established processes in place, they shouldn't stick to them regardless, even if they work well.

Indeed, past success is no guarantee of future success, and stubbornly sticking to the status quo effectively means you're standing still while your competitors are forging ahead.

“We don’t need change”

The view that you don't need to change how you operate because your processes already work well is often based on two mistaken assumptions.

Firstly, if the current procedures worked perfectly when they were first implemented and still do today, why try to fix what isn't broken?

Secondly, you might believe the reason why certain processes were introduced are still valid.

But if you step back and take an objective look at how you operate, then you might spot opportunities for improvement that aren't being pursued.

This is the entrepreneurial mindset that all leaders must adopt. Updating your processes isn't an admission that the previous system didn't work. Instead, it's a sign that you're agile, forward-looking and willing to adapt in an ever-changing operating environment.

It's a demonstration that you are always striving to do better and meet customers' ever-increasing demands and expectations.

Finally, the desire to drive improvements shows you are firmly focused on remaining competitive in your industry.

Standing still is comparable to moving backwards if other companies in your sector are embracing innovative new ideas and processes.

So you should always be looking at how you can make things better, then set into motion change!

"Time for change"

If you want to action changes to across the organisation, you will need the full support of all senior managers, board members and colleagues, and then only raise the proposal once you have all the details in place. For instance, you need to have a good idea of how much money your idea will cost, or how much it will generate.

Ensure you understand which departments will your proposed changes affect. Do you have the in-house expertise to make it happen or will you need to bring in an outside specialist?

If you have answers to these kinds of questions ready, change management will be a much easier process and be much more likely to make an impact and be culturally installed across the business.

Be ready to encounter resistance

Plenty of people within your business will adopt an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality".

So if you are going to present a plan for change, you need to be ready to face some resistance and be able to justify why your idea is necessary.

This brings us back to what we said earlier about adopting a different mindset.

After all, your intention is not to suggest there is something wrong with the current process. Instead, you simply want to suggest how something that works well can be made even better.

"The big picture"

When you're actioning organisational changes, no matter how small, it's worth focusing on how they could benefit the wider business.

While an idea might have been borne out of a desire to make your life a little bit easier, this shouldn’t be the angle that you base it around.

Instead, key stakeholders and decision-makers must be made to see how lots of people across the organisation could benefit and how it could have a positive impact on the firm's bottom line.