I felt it would be appropriate to end the year by posting a brain teaser. My point was not to immerse us in a didactic debate but to propose starting 2009 with a challenge that we each take an introspective look at our businesses.
It is my observation as a consultant and expert witness that many business leaders unconsciously plan to fail and succeed at it. This is not the result of some masochistic wish but the inevitable truism that failing to plan is planning to fail. I am not sure why human nature makes it so difficult for us to look into a mirror and objectively see our weaknesses, but that process is one of the most poorly executed by the most intelligent and talented people I know (including ME).
Part of the answer is that we have seen the literal and figurative reflection of ourselves and our business so often, we have developed a filter that only lets us see a certain image that seldom changes. Just as we do not see the crows-feet developing around our eyes as we age, we do not see subtle changes in our organizations until they precipitate some sort of crisis.
An example is a company I worked with that was pioneering bio diesel fuel refining. They designed and sold hundred of units for home and small businesses that refined used cooking oil into diesel fuel. Through the formative months of development, we planned for structured growth, scalable processes and customer support. During the same time period, used cooking oil was available from restaurants for free because there was a disposal fee to the restaurateur. By not planning for how success would affect their business, the supply of used cooking oil literally dried up when there was a sudden demand for it by the new users of bio diesel converters. At the same time, increased use of corn for ethanol made cooking oil a very expensive commodity and completely destroyed the economic model of bio diesel refining.
While the entrepreneurs thought they were planning to succeed, their paradigms caused them to plan to fail. While the crystal ball has not yet been perfected and the Ouija board has its limitations, there are more robust approaches to holistic assessment and business process optimization that you might want to investigate as we move into a new year that is target rich in opportunities.
Holiday Greetings from Tom, Midge and the Taormina Group