Throughout history there have been huge opportunities missed and disasters which could’ve been avoided all through a particular kind of blindness: the inability (or unwillingness) to pick up the weak signals or uncomfortable truths and make better decisions…
Google missed the dawn of social media.
Microsoft missed the coming of the usable, commercial Internet.
EMI missed signing the Beatles!
And on a smaller scale I’m sure we can relate to losing a key member of staff when everything looked fine!
Add to these any number of collisions, explosions, oils spills and other disasters which could’ve been prevented.
An analysis of all these situations will show up an attitude of knowing what’s best and not listening to the experts.
Too often, because we ‘know’ our own business and industry so well, we dismiss good ideas and valid input from our own people or other experts who take the time to study an environment before speaking.
And we end up the long term losers.
But not all is lost.
There are two ways to make better decisions, run a healthy company and help avoid disasters.
- Get rid of the “if it’s not broke” mentality: I grew up with the phrase “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it!”. This is a lousy way to approach life. If we only attend to things when they’re broken, then they’re far more expensive to fix (if fixing is possible at all) and very likely a lot of damage has already been caused. So how do we solve this?
- Become a proactive enquirer. Ask people how they’re doing, why things are done that way, what problems have been recorded, who’s unhappy…
- Try and pick up the weak signals that can inform you of a pattern that may indicate things are going wrong and can be attended too before its too late.
- This way, you and your organisation itself may be the ones innovating new solutions to existing problems not just for yourselves but others out there.
- The Strategic Council: Here’s the thing. Running a business is often tough, so how can we be even better informed about what’s going on and hear the hard truths we need to be aware of? The answer may lie in Jim Collins’ famous book Good to Great, where he makes reference to the ‘strategic council’:
- A group of advisors (usually quite small) including at least one external party that can ask questions and share observations so the leadership can be better informed and can steer the company more effectively.
- Outsiders are key in this respect as they can help the leadership see what they can’t see. We can’t go into execution mode and maintain peripheral vision at the same time! The council can give you the perspective you need so that when you dive into the mix, you are better informed of the roadblocks and pitfalls.
Guided by these, it’s not impossible for your organization to stay ahead and move forward if this culture of organizational self-inquiry is put in place.