Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Past Tense Part 2

I posted earlier this week in "Past Tense" about checking out a facility that is going under. At the time my focus was almost entirely about this guy and his company.
I also did my best to isolate the sadness and try to do a little "forensics" on what caused this company to fail. Three things I noticed:
1. He had lots of stuff. There were a number of pieces of heavy equipment that probably cost around $100K each, but that seemed to have no strategic connection. This probably meant that he bought stuff he thought was a bargain and then the tail wagged the dog as he focused on capacity utilization.
2. He spoke only in the past tense. Initially I thought of this as the sad symptom of his failure, but after a bit of follow up I'm not so sure it wasn't also the cause. There's bunch of social science research that points to "locus of control"--one's self perceived ability to influence their environment--as a strong predictor of overall success. I think the past tense thing is a function of not knowing what drove his business when things were good, thus he couldn't modify strategy when the economy slowed.
3. There was no conspicuous effort toward selling. I don't mean not lots of sales, that's obvious, there was no system in place, nothing that looked like there once was. This is the one that scares me the most, because with our new shop I feel a big draw toward the nuts and bolts of running the shop; schedules, sweeping the floor, buying consumables, etc. This is one of the situations where the good is the enemy of the best; a disciplined approach to the whole project stream is important, and should be obvious when you walk in the room.
About a year ago we did a project where one of our products failed. I can't go into detail, but it turned out the problem was a goofy scenario that nobody envisioned during initial design. We modified the design to account for the new issue and ended up having a great relationship with the client. The cool (in retrospect) thing for us was that we brought in a team of outside experts and tried to figure out everything about our design that we might have screwed up. One of the consultants commented, "You can learn a lot looking at a dead body."
I think the same is true here. Monday I think we're going to pull in the leadership team and run through a hypothetical autopsy--if we fail what would be the cause.
There's a line that the founding fathers said to each other when the circle wasn't holding--We cannot guarantee success, but we can deserve it.
Good stuff.


Blogger Keith W said...

it's been great reading your stuff. We need to hang out soon.

8:20 PM  
Blogger SHANNA said...

there is a quote by abraham lincoln that i think applies in this man's situation..... "you are only as happy as you make up your mind to be." i think that says a lot about a persons frame of mind and where that gets them in life!

6:36 AM  
Blogger SHANNA said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:36 AM  

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