In an effort to catch up on my business reading over the holidays, I came across six articles by six noted business writers in six different magazines all focused on the same subject. While each author approached the subject in his/her own distinctive style, the shared focus was obvious.
The message was simple yet direct. As the new year gears up, organizations need to get serious about identifying stumbling blocks, sacred cows, and/or dead horses and waste no time in the elimination of each. The sooner this is done, the sooner focus can be placed on more productive and profitable targets.
Organizations no longer have the luxury to allow these “dead horses” to weigh them down in their journey to success. We have too long focused on reasons to avoid confronting these issues rather than dealing with them and moving on.
Identify your “dead horse.” Is it a negative person who we’ve tolerated far too long? Is it a policy, procedure, or guideline that no longer makes sense or maybe even offends our clients or employees? Is it a technology issue, product or service concern, or maybe a communication challenge? Focus to identify and clarify.
Take action to deal with the problem!
I found it interesting that so many experienced writers chose to focus on the same challenge. There must be an emerging trend which indicates that problem avoidance is an obvious deterrent to productivity. However, this is not exactly a new inclination. It’s been around for centuries as the following generational gem reflects. The obvious difference arises in the fact that today’s consequences are much more devastating as a result of the economy, increased global competition, technology, politics, etc. We can no longer take this challenge lightly.
The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that, “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”
In contrast, here’s how many in today’s business environment respond when they find out their “horse” is dead:
- Say things like, “This is the way we always have ridden the horse.”
- Appoint a committee to study the horse.
- Buy a stronger whip.
- Change riders.
- Arrange to visit other locations to see how they ride dead horses.
- Raise the standards for riding dead horses.
- Appoint a triage team to revive the dead horse.
- Create a training session to increase our riding ability.
- Compare the state of dead horses in today’s business environment.
- Change your definitions or rules by declaring, “This horse is not dead.”
- Hire outside consultants to ride the dead horse.
- Harness several dead horses together to increase speed and pulling power.
- Declare that “No horse is too dead to beat.”
- Provide additional incentive funding (more sticks – more carrots) to increase the horse’s performance.
- Do a case-study to see if competitors can ride it cheaper.
- Purchase a software package or institute a new program to make dead horses run faster.
- Declare that the horse is “better, faster, and cheaper” dead.
- Form a quality circle to find uses for dead horses.
- Revisit the performance requirements for dead horses.
- Downsize the dead horse.
- Reassign fault to the dead horse’s last rider.
- Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.
- Shorten the track.
- Declare the dead horse was “one of the leading horses” in its day.
- Establish benchmarks for industry dead horse leaders.
- Gather other dead animals and announce a new diversity program.
- Put together a spiffy PowerPoint presentation to get planners to double the dead horse R & D budget.
- Get the dead horse a web site!
The analogies to business are readily apparent, and so true. Too often we are focused on everything but the dead horse, and we forget what it takes to win the race! Dismount today!