Are You Changing Strategies Too Often?
My favorite business book series if the Good To Great series by Jim Collins.
I’ve read and reread those books and always learn something new.
One of the myths dispelled in those books (I can’t remember exactly the one) is the idea that great leaders need to always be coming up with new ideas.
The myth seems to come about from public perception. We see a company, let’s say Apple, come out with a great new product, the iPhone.
We think that it’s a genius idea. And we think that great companies are build by great leaders with great ideas.
The trouble, though, is that line of thinking can lead to lurching from one idea to the next and from one strategy to the next.
That can lead to a death spiral. It can lead to a quick demise and to a slow demise, but usually to demise.
Are You A Lurcher?
Entrepreneurs are usually blessed with brains that are always turning. Ideas seem to come easy for entrepreneurs. Maybe not all entrepreneurs. Maybe not all the time. But it seems that for many this is the case.
Entrepreneurs see the world differently. They see opportunity.
That’s a blessing and a curse in a way.
There are lots of opportunities, but the most successful are the ones that can figure out the right opportunities. And they’re not just looking at the short-term. They’re looking at the long-term.
Lurchers, on the other hand, are always looking for the quick fix. They’re looking for immediate results and satisfaction. That can work sometimes, but usually it leads to an ultimate death.
Lurching leads to giving up on things too soon. It means investing too much into things that haven’t been fully proven. In either case it’s obviously not good for a business.
Lurching comes in many areas of business.
It might be in the launch of a new product or service. A lurcher might pull the plug too soon and look for something else.
It could be with a new employee. A lurcher might cut the cord with an employee before they have a chance to find their footing.
Maybe it’s with a sales initiative. A lurcher doesn’t see immediate return so they move on looking for the next opportunity.
Blocking Noise, Thinking Long-Term
Ted Thompson is the general manager of the Green Bay Packers. He has a love/hate relationship with fans.
They usually love him when they think about the long-term side of things. But they hate him in the heat of the moment because he usually doesn’t react quickly or with any emotion. I think that’s what makes him successful if a bit odd.
One example of how he operates is how he handled kicker Mason Crosby a few years ago.
Word out of training camp was that Mason was not kicking the ball well. Then there was a very public Family Night event where Mason couldn’t make any kick. It was surely the end of the line for him. Fans were out for blood and ready to move on.
But Thompson looked at the big picture and the long-term. Mason had been the best kicker in team history. His leg was still strong. His dedication and focus were still strong. All signs pointed to him simply going through a slump.
Thompson stuck with Mason and after struggling for a bit more he turned things around and has been one of the best kickers in the league the last few years.
Thompson is excellent when it comes to blocking out the noise and focusing on the long-term. He doesn’t lurch when it comes to important decisions.
Small Tests, Long-Term Commitment
Another lesson from the Good To Great books is the idea of doing small tests before doing big rollouts of products, services, etc.
Successful companies are always testing things. They don’t invest enough in any one test that failure would ruin the company. Far from it. But they’re always doing little things just to see what might work.
Then when something does show promise (usually after a long period of testing) the company is ready to put proper investment behind it while also continuing to look at the long-term.
Think of the story of Pixar. They didn’t come to find success immediately by any means. They had dreams of doing feature length animation films, but struggled for a long time trying small shorts and tinkering with new technology.
Finally, after having success with certain short films they were able to have enough proof that a feature would work and the result was Toy Story.
One key reminder on this point is that you can’t give up on the little tests too soon. Give them enough time until you’re full convinced that it won’t work. Don’t invest so much so that it bankrupts you, but let tests run their course.
Leaders have a constant balancing act to play. You have to be able to drown out the noise and make big decisions. But so much of business happens outside of the big decisions. You can’t lurch from one idea to the next and expect long-term success. That’s a recipe for failure.
Success comes from giving small projects proper testing and long-term commitment and then when they show promise going in with full commitment for the even longer term. Take that approach to all you do in business and you’ll be in really good shape for future success.