It is commonly stated by managers that if it is not broken don’t fix it, indicating that the key motivation for improvement should be an existing problem. I do not think so, the key motivation for improvement should be – being better. Because, if you are not constantly becoming better, if you wait for things to get broken in order to fix them, it may very well be too late.
How do you know that it is not broken? What are the indicators management is using to come to the state of such satisfaction as to say – “it is so good that there is nothing we should do differently”? Is it a comparison to competition? A feeling? A performance measure that is so good that it cannot, or should not, be improved? Or maybe what people are saying about it?
If you were the coach of a football team, would you say that if your team scores on average two goals per game, there is nothing to improve? Or, if you are in the first place of your league isn’t there anything that can still be improved? Is your 1st place guaranteed for ever? If your players are content with themselves and their achievements, should that suffice for you? for your fans? for the team owners? Why should you think differently in business?
Good companies should not allow the notion of “if it’s not broken… ” at all, as it leads to being self content. To increasing inefficiencies and to reacting too late to changes in external circumstances.
“The best of the best, can always get better” is the moto I suggest to follow. The only way to instill such a moto in a company is to always have a bit of a sense of “something is wrong”. It is natural to choose the path of “if it’s not broken…”. Thus, the management systems must have a way to ensure there is always something broken to be fixed, even when the performance is more than satisfactory, against any measure.
The way to achieve that is through ensuring there is a mechanism in place that constantly challenges the performance, in a moderated way, so that people can be proud and content with the performance they have achieved and at the same time under pressure to further improve. This way, when it is not broken, you can continue fixing it. This way, you’ll have an effective continuous improvement process and culture in place. I believe that the true meaning of innovation, is this installed continuous improvement process. It is about people, and processes that can simultaneously lead to pride and pressure to improve without compromise.
If it is not broken, nevertheless – fix it!