You can always do change, but different is not always better. Don't confuse me by not distinguishing carefully between the normally hierarchical concepts of “change” and “better”. Wisdom is to know the difference. Now, I will admit that better is a subset of change. So is worse. Separating better from worse may be a lot like separating heat from cold. There are upper limits in both directions. You can do it, but there is a natural balance that WILL be reached in spite of the effort. Guess who controls that balance.
Example one: a company with a continuous improvement policy insists that things could be better at every level and every process. So they embark on an endless circuit of changes many times without regard to respecting the wisdom, experience and success of the past. It takes a great deal of time and money to make changes to a process or structure. Endless changes to management structure are at best confusing and usually counterproductive. Many times a given change is productive, i.e. it produces more than it cost. If not, no matter, we'll just raise the selling price. No wonder the cost of things accelerates beyond inflation rates. I've never seen a company change their policy when they reach a point of diminishing returns, i.e. when it costs more than it produces. At some point, the company is caught up in an endless chain of expensive changes to their structure, processes and even their product and unless a brave heart calls out to stop at the point of diminishing returns, the company's momentum drives it into oblivion.
How many times have you bought a well thought out tool that is effective, durable, efficient in your environment only to find that its replacement has been “improved” to the point of near uselessness? I'm not sure that our basic transportation, the automobile, has actually experienced major improvement, especially in recent years. Why do electric windows help us get to where we want to go more efficiently? Self locking? Sunroof? Electric mirrors? They don't. In fact they are counterproductive by taking energy from an already inefficient system and raising the cost. Granted, current cars may be way better than alternative transportation in comfort and convenience, but in the long run are they really better at transportation? The calamity is that now in this economy we have exceedingly expensive automobiles that bury people in debt and that do very little better than their predecessors at getting us around every day.
I have never understood why redesigning almost the entire automobile each year is an “improvement”. I have for a long time been enamored with the example set by Volkswagen when they introduced a user serviceable automobile that was efficient and reliable. And most uniquely, very little changed from year to year. Look at the costs that were saved by reusing so many processes and designs. They had a very popular car because it was inexpensive to own and operate. Public opinion voted it out of existence when it ceased to be cute, but the efficiency in the manufacturing was an important lesson to our economy. Massive change is not always the best overall.
Example two: an employee is doing an outstanding job, yet is put under continuous pressure to do better. Need more hustle, but instead they get burnout because wisdom does not intercede. More than once I've seen a point of diminishing returns reached very quickly. The employee either “burns out” or quits to protect himself. Then the short sighted company is faced with the expense of replacement. Not so good for any one's economy.
There is no such place as perfection and the notion of reaching it by continuous improvement is ludicrous. Just as you cannot ever reach your destination by going half way to it every day, you cannot reach anything better than close enough. Let's get honest and call it what it is! Close enough. Good job, well done. Allow the sense of achievement. Instead of rewarding steady, highly productive employees, we reward the losers taking advantage of the constant changes. The unsteady, unpredictable nature of high pressure to improve leads to a very unstable, undesirable work environment that few self motivated people can tolerate. It's just foolishness. Ever try to drive a flat head screw into a hard surface with no pilot hole? High pressure just isn't going to do it. Turning round and round at different angles just isn't going to do it either. There is an established procedure that leads to success every time and wise people follow it closely. Screws have been redesigned thousands of ways, but the wisdom of the established procedure has yet to be improved,-- c