Walsh Enterprises Business & Financial Advisors
Huntington Beach, California USA
Put a Little Flair Into It
Reprinted from a February 2009 blog at www.walshal.wordpress.com
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
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.
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-
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.
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.
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.
Companies are ill-served by leaders & employees who are performing
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.
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?
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.