The Dangers of Complacency

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Complacency – (Satisfied: Self-satisfied, usually in an unreflective way and without being aware of possible dangers)

What does a car, a business, or a person have in common?  I had never given it much thought until I recently went to start my car after work, which has 100,000 plus miles, and found that as soon as I took my foot off the accelerator it would quit. Prior to this, I had been noticing over the past several months and especially when I tried to run the air conditioning that if I was to decrease speed, the car would begin to run rough; when I would stop the car would nearly stall.  I found that I could basically ignore the situation by shifting into neutral or turning off the air conditioning and slightly depressing the accelerator.  I had been opting to simply become complacent and was basically using “work around” or “substitute processes” to operate the car.  Now, it was essential to keep one foot on the accelerator and be ready to instantly shift into neutral if I was to keep the car engine running.

Suddenly, the basic process of driving had taken on numerous additional steps.  In the world of ABM (Activity Based Management) I had developed non value added steps or substitute processes.  In addition, to return home I would have to take a different route that was longer but that would require less additional hand and foot work to keep the car running.

I was able to drive the car to a mechanic who after an examination informed me that it was my idle control in the carburetor that was the problem.  What had happened over the years is that deposits in the gasoline had been building up in the part of the car that controls the idle speed of the engine, therefore, it was slowly reducing the amount of gas available to keep the car idling.  An hour later, after the mechanic had applied a cleaning mixture, I was driving a vehicle that had restored power.

Business is the same way.  We set up process(s) but over time if we don’t follow up with a routine operational process analysis, you’ll find that employees are working harder, morale is dropping and cost seems to be going up.  One day you may even find that you can no longer compete with your competition.

Personal health is the same scenario.

What does a car, a business or a person have in common?  That left unchecked, the performance will slowly, seemingly and unknowingly deteriorate until suddenly it is no longer able to function.

Establishing an ongoing routine analysis of our process(s) and measurements will allow us to identify potential problems before we find our self unable to perform.

The following illustration demonstrates how the little things can impact your performance.

Read the following statement.


Question is how many “F’s” did you see as you read this statement?

Majority of individuals will say three (3) but there is in fact six (6) “F’s”.  Many times we overlook the “of’s” in the process.  The question now becomes: are these “of’s” that have crept into your process over time value addednon-value added or substitute process?

If one allows the complacency of existing processes, there is the potential for unknown, possible dangers and risk that can slowly erode one’s business position.  It is essential to develop a continuous process improvement mindset of one’s entire business processe(s) so as to maintain it in peak of operating efficiency.

Remember that “All Activities Consume Resources”.


Rehn Nelson is an experienced continuous process improvement  specialist with over twenty years of experience working with both private and public clients using ABM, Cycle Time, Six Sigma principles along with SIS, Indirect Work Measurement, Visio and “brown” paper mapping tools to analyze their current business processes and developing new “streamline” business process flows.   Prior experience includes the position as a Senior Management System & Control Specialist for over twelve years with Rockwell International working on major defense and aerospace programs.

Contact him at

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