Monday, December 10, 2018

Rationalize Anything...Because It Works?

We condone a lot of the past, it was slavery on economic grounds...because most things we believe are good as long as the results prove it. For example, there was controversy around Peters’ book In Search of Excellence because many of the featured companies had fallen on hard times. Therefore, the author’s recommendations came into disrepute. To combat that weakness, Collins and his co-authors of Good to Great and Built to Last looked at longer periods of time for great companies (to indicate if they were truly great even through recessions) and compared them to industry rivals to find those distinguishing characteristics that allowed them to thrive.

What we don’t know is how many companies operated like the ‘great’ companies and didn’t make it. I caution those I advise that I know what’s worked in my experience, against what hasn’t worked, but I don’t know if there are a lot more companies who have failed operating the same way I operate my companies...or a lot more companies that have succeeded using methodogies and principles that I think don’t work. We all suffer from Outcome Bias supposing that the results justify the means, rather than supposing it’s just pure luck that our processes worked this time but won’t year-after-year.
In one company, a few executives were content that change wasn’t necessary. The company had grown 15% nearly every year and that was tolerable. To grow 15% on $1M in sales requires much less effort than growing that same percentage on $100M. Change was necessary. Yet change was difficult because past performance was seen as an indicator of future results (contrary to the disclaimer in all prospectuses). Likewise, in another company, their marketing efforts were viewed as successful because it appealed to the executives of the company. As long as the marketing efforts brought in tolerable results, there was no need to change, notwithstanding that the marketing didn’t appeal to a broader segment of the target market. The company could be more successful with some marketing changes.

On an individual basis, we think we’ve gotten into our job positions through our own skill, talent, habits, personality, inherit motivations, and experience....not that we’ve been in the right place at the right time. The outcome justifies our career path. But when adversity strikes—a layoff, a termination, high turnover in our staff—we blame it on the external ‘world’. The problem is ‘their fault’, the poor economy, and so on. We’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s bad luck. (But before it wasn’t ‘good luck’ but us that achieved success...) 

If people don’t respond to our marketing appeal, it’s not that the message is wrong (it appeals to us), it’s that we’re not marketing in the right place or they’re not looking in the right place.

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