Doing Business: Put A Little Flair Into It

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A discussion of the desirable business culture & methodology.

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Doing Business: Put A Little Flair Into It

  1. 1. Walsh Enterprises Business & Financial Advisors Huntington Beach, California USA http://www.awalsh.us walshal1@aol.com (714) 465-2749 Doing Business Put a Little Flair Into It Reprinted from a February 2009 blog at www.walshal.wordpress.com
  2. 2. I started my business career in the late 1970s. At that time, a trend was starting to develop that carried through the 1980’s; mainly in large corporations. In a nutshell, companies were squashing individuality, and institutionalizing uniformity – in executives, in employees, in products, in processes, in marketing, and in their public personas. It was rooted in a desire to cut costs, avoid controversy, and find the “perfect across-the-board management style”. The advent of more & more powerful Business Process Systems spurred it on to some extent. This philosophy is still prevalent in many businesses today.
  3. 3. I’m convinced that General Motors created the root problem which has brought them to their current sorry-state by enacting this philosophy. The “finance mentality” took over from the designers, causing a set of actions that culminated in boring cars, reduced creativity, stultifying parts & manufacturing uniformity, and a drop in quality. The Divisions, which had previously bred wide- spread innovation in their zeal to compete with each other and differentiate themselves, were reduced to sad look-alikes. The whole company took on a pathetic “vanilla” flavor which persists to this day. Car shows used to be a “rite of passage”, with fathers & sons and buddies eagerly rushing down for a peek at the new designs. Those days are long gone. Just a vestige of a bygone era? I don’t think so. I think it’s management gone awry. Look around and tell me if you don’t see the same conditions in other companies today.
  4. 4. Yes, companies must be cost-effective. Yes, they must exert certain disciplines. Yes, the Business Process Systems of today tend to enforce certain constraints. And yes, certain outside factors restrict freedom of action (such as federal standards which restrict the design-freedom of auto manufacturers). But ultimately businesses are run by humans (or mismanaged as the case may be). They are the ultimate decision makers, and they have choices – or at least should have. The “machines” are just dumb tools. If companies are to differentiate themselves from the “herd”, the humans who run them must exercise a little freedom of action. The most effective executives & managers I’ve known are colorful people who bring personal style to their work.
  5. 5. The most effective organizations I’ve worked with have a variety of colorful people who bring varying perspectives; sometimes fighting like cats & dogs. A smart CEO who learns to channel disagreement constructively will have a healthier & more productive team. At every level, people are more effective when they’re given some latitude to approach their work in the way that best suits them. Internal competition, if properly channeled, is healthy. Designers and innovators need some latitude. They’re the ones who build the company’s present & future.
  6. 6. Companies are ill-served by leaders & employees who are performing “mechanically”. The people who shape the company’s outward image – from both product and corporate standpoints – should be looking for every clever way to differentiate themselves from their competition. The zeal to control costs & profits should not be allowed to reach such a state that the producers & creators are stifled.
  7. 7. Business Process Improvement (BPI) Systems can help ensure that you’re “Doing It Right”, but it’s up to humans to ensure that you’re “Doing The Right Thing” (the subject of a recent article). In their zeal to “Do It Right”, some companies impose so many restrictions on the humans that it’s no longer possible to “Do The Right Thing”; or it gets lost in the “noise”. Corporate culture starts at the top. So ask yourself Mr. CEO, what kind of company do you want? - a “GM-style automaton” – or a living, breathing, fighting, competing, creating, innovating, unique, colorful organization that has flair seeping from every pore?
  8. 8. Given the unique and ominous challenges we’re facing in the current economy, this question takes on more importance than ever before. What’s your opinion? If you think I’m “full of it” – tell me why.

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