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The high cost of maintaining the status quo

Steve Sorensen //January 18, 2012//

The high cost of maintaining the status quo

Steve Sorensen //January 18, 2012//

We public speakers fall in love with our quotes for a variety of reason. As Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” This is a powerful statement from a guy who virtually invented modern management.

The reality of this quote becomes more profound when we stop our speaking or presenting to our audience, put on our consultancy hat and define the step by step process of creating the high performing organization that is positioned to achieve tremendous success in the future. In other words, stop the talk and begin the walk/responsibility for that future.

One of my favorite talks is on organizational strategy and “Assessing the Organization for High Performance.” I usually begin with the book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. The book is less interesting than the title, which frankly cuts to the heart of the matter.
The talk focuses on how organizations can drift from a visionary, well thought-out strategy. Unfortunately, some executives don’t know within which of the five categories their organization resides.

1. Strategic intent: It begins when the organizations plan, think and work very hard at getting the strategy right. Late nights and headaches are worth the effort to have a game plan that’s going to be a game changer. This effort results in executives who use “Assessing the Organization for High Performance” as a strategy and implement the plan, structure and workforce for successful outcomes. It must be centered in the vision that will foster longevity, sustainable profits and productivity. This creates the high performance organization filled with capable, empowered workers that create long lasting customer relationships/partnership.

2. Strategic drift: Those late nights that produced a game changing strategy didn’t take into account these uncertain economic times, unreliable lending sources, changing interest rates, etc. Sometimes there’s a panic to change the strategy and head off in another direction. There is nothing wrong with a minor course correction. Being able to adapt to changing markets, economics or customer demands is critical to success. However the organization cannot afford to step away from the vision that created the mission and strategy to begin with. We advise the “trim tab” system (Buckminster Fuller). A trim tab is the tiny tab on the rudder of a ship or airplane…trim tabbing allows for smooth course correction…measured effectiveness of the minor course correction and but maintains the strategy.

3. Tactical expediency: Some fall into panic mode – the strategy didn’t work (more likely they didn’t give it time to work), so executives pushed the panic button. They have stockholders and banks to answer to. They may have had a great strategy, but now they need to make something/anything happen. So begins the downward spiral.

4. Reduced visibility horizon: Now they are deep in the weeds with tactics. They have no idea what’s coming at them or if they’re getting hammered in the marketplace. They’ve pulled back on customer engagement programs; forget customers in the future, they need customers now, at any price. They’re working towards commodity status for their products/service. A winning culture goes out the window, customer retention dries up, worker wellbeing an afterthought, just keep those heads down and keep rowing this boat in a circle.

5. Total risk avoidance, AKA, hunkered down: They’re safe in their bunker now – no daylight, but a dim light bulb hanging from the ceiling. They have no idea what’s happening in the marketplace or the customer world, but at least they’re safe. They don’t budget to develop or train people; the best have already been recruited away. They’ve forgotten customer engagement programs; they deal on price/low margin/high volume. The hiring tactics are to find those who can fog a mirror and instruct salespeople to get out there and find warm bodies to sell. They hire sales trainers who teach selling. Sell cheap and sell often, more sales calls, fall in love with rejection. They’ve forgotten value or partnerships – it’s too complicated and time consuming.
If your organization falls into category number one, congratulations! You’ve stuck with your vision and didn’t pursue a strategy du jour. You’ve probably kept a culture of collaborative teams which consistently beat industry norms and competition. Most likely, you’ve strategically indentified a customer engagement program of indentifying; acquiring and retaining customers who fit well into your strategy (products/service — value proposition).

You then have a higher that usual customer retention rate, can charge more and provide line extension to your existing customer base. Additionally you’ve effectively navigated the slings and arrows of this economy. Workers for the most part share your vision and understand the key performance indicators and manage to those. They’ve created a bright future.

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