Overcoming Inertia in a Small Business Environment

by / Friday, 23 May 2014 / Published in Productive Business Tips

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Inertia in the workplace refers to the series of habits and actions that you and your employees can fall into, becoming comfortable with a routine that can get in the way of real progress. Generally speaking the larger your team becomes, the more likely it is that a series of routine actions will be established as the proportion of employees to managers becomes higher. The problems caused by a too strict adherence to a routine include missing opportunities, reduced confidence in the face of innovative competition, a sliding standard of performance, and complacence in general that leads to less getting done.

What causes inertia in the workplace? Common in the corporate world, a fear of experimentation and risk taking is a common cause of a glacial pace of organizational change. When employees feel that they are not valued for their ability to be innovative, and rather, are important only insofar as they can perform a specific task, then the risks involved in experimentation and innovative thinking become undesirable to them and they fall into a “safe” routine. Another source of inertia is simply a lack of clear direction that leaves employees unsure of how to proceed. If they don’t know what they are supposed to be doing, or don’t know what method to use to achieve results, then that puts them in a precarious position and can lead to inaction.

How can you defeat workplace inertia? Breaking up the routines that lead to workplace stagnation can help keep you and your employees on your toes, and reduce the tendency to do nothing while looking busy that holds many people back. The first step towards figuring out when it’s appropriate to shake things up is through identifying the essential processes that make your business work. For this, the best road map you can turn to is your business plan, which should already detail the essential components of your business. If, for example, part of your employee’s routine is the send out leads in the morning so that people can follow up on the during the day, it’s probably a mistake to schedule a meeting over that time, which is an important part of your operations. If, on the other hand, the employee then settles in to a cycle of checking emails, reading articles and waiting around for direction, you should intervene by introducing new goals or re-establishing long term priorities.

Flexibility is a valuable commodity in an organization. It’s all too common for practices that materialize over time as a business operates to become the law of the land and seem unchangeable, even if they originated as arbitrary adaptations. Business owners should strive to recognize this and avoid writing things in stone, so to speak. The business that is best able to adapt to a changing industry and economy is the one that is the most likely to survive, not the one with entrenched positions and deep seated beliefs that are non-reality based.


Photo Credit to Don DeBold on Flickr

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