Sitting in the barber chair this weekend in my hometown of Baltimore, I was chatting with the woman who has cut my hair since I was in high school – she also happens to be the co-owner of the hair salon. Over the years, it has been very interesting to see how she has developed her business. First, setting up shop in a nice part of town, and then working to attract new customers by networking with families that attended local high schools. Every time I visit her I ask how business is going and she usually tells me that things are going well – she and her business partner have been very successful. However this time she gave me a little bit of a different answer – she said everything was “consistent.” Not good, not bad – just consistent.

I’ve been thinking for a while on how to interpret her answer. Is consistent good or bad? In some ways consistency is very good – some people even study the art of consistency (some call it “Six Sigma”). Consistency leads to predictable results, no surprises, and minimized risk of adverse events.

In other ways consistency is bad – consistency lacks excitement and novelty. Consistency leads to organizational churn, low motivation and employee burn out.

In the end, I think consistency (like many things) is a double edged sword – it can be both good and bad. Given its inherent tradeoffs, it’s very important that consistency is managed. Someone needs to make sure the benefits of consistency are reaped and the drawbacks are avoided.

What are your thoughts on consistency?

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