“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”
W. Edwards Deming wrote that iconic line in the sixties and it could have been written last week. This was illustrated dramtically when Alan Greenspan recently apologized to America for not knowing that the cowboy bankers were ruining thousands of lives.
“Greenspan said that he (and others) had believed that lending institutions would do a good job of protecting their shareholders; they are in a ‘state of shocked disbelief at the outcome. They were shocked that when they removed the referees from the Wall Street hockey game and allowed the players to regulate themselves, the result was chaos on the ice!” It occurred to me that management often plays the role of referees for their teams. We make the rules and when needed, we also need the foresight to change the rules. (A privilege that sports referees don’t have, by the way)
When business is booming we keep zooming. We say far too often that we are “crazy busy”, and planning for the future is that thing we’ll work on tomorrow. Well, an ideal time to plan for the future is when everyone else is worrying about how to nail plywood on the windows and survive the impending storm. Put down your hammer, gather the team in the storm cellar and get to work.
I believe that our current economic condition is a gift for you and your team; it’s the gift of time. It’s time NOW to referee a different game. And you’re the ref.
Let’s say you run a $10 million business and your vision is to grow to $20 million. A bad economy does not have to douse that dream. Thousands of businesses will grow during a down economy and yours can be one of them. Yours should be one of them.
Gather your team and declare that you will create a plan to solve the problems that you’ve been thinking about solving. You might start by replacing the people who are a bad fit for their position. Or, work to improve accountability. Create a set of definitive operational metrics or take your systems implementation to 99%. Pick one. Or more. It’s the season of budgets and planning, and you can create your clearest, strongest and most actionable plan.
Gather your team and your calendars and block out your planning sessions. Get a smarter before you start – buy a book, visit some websites or start reading blogs, www.timberry.com is a favorite.
Make time now to improve your operating plan. Do it carefully – with a method, with team participation and keep it planted in reality. Create criteria and use it. Then…get the team back in the room and ask the hardest questions you can ask.
It’s time to unwrap your gift.