Who out there is just so sick of saying you are busy when someone says “how are you?” Has this expression become one of the most meaningless things to say to someone else? And when you say it, do you think how boring it sounds and wonder if in all that busyness, you have been focusing on the right things? Tasks that will turn into results anyway? Frustration! Well that’s sounds like a whole lot of fun doesn’t it? There are not many people who fall upon the optimum business strategy, who get a business that is performing well so they can spend more time building for the future. But that too sounds very generic doesn’t it?
The more senior you get, the more your day has an incredible way of filling itself. And yet, the more senior you get the more you need to get results. And now here is the kicker, the less likely you are to detect when things are going off track.
I was reminded this week about Kodak. Founded in 1880, impressively profitable, overcame all the odds in surviving over 130 years. With a near monopoly on the “photographic market” in the US. How did it miss the digital photography revolution? Well the fact is, it didn’t miss it at all. Steven Sasson actually worked for Kodak when he invented the digital camera in 1975. They had meetings about its potential, its future and had a decade’s long opportunity for the technology to develop to the point where it could substitute film based photography. In hindsight, it was like watching a train hurtling out of control towards you, and not getting out of the way over a period of more than 30 years. How could this happen? Well I am sure the executives at this venerable company were busy. I am sure they were rightly proud of their heritage and their success and I am sure their days were full of managing people to outcomes and endpoints on the tasks they were assigned. But what happens when the company’s strategy is just plain wrong?
Kodak’s near monopoly, incredible margins (as high as 70%), peak sales of USD$16 billion in 1996 dollars, had all enabled it to survive over 130 years. And in what must have been an incredible opportunity that turned into an incredible irony, they invented the innovation that would ultimately cause their demise. Astonishingly they had a couple of decades to evolve their business and to lead the change in their own interests.
The statistics are damning for Australian businesses …….
- 40 % of businesses in Australia fail to reach their 4th birthday
- Of Australia’s top 500 companies 30 years ago, only 23% are still around today
- Of those that fail, 37% are sited as due to poor strategic management
Executives have very little discretionary time and neither do the people who work for them. Everyone is busy. But we need to deploy whatever discretionary time we have, or can carve out, to make sure we have business strategies that are adapting us to the external forces at play or we’ll all eventually have our own ‘Kodak moment’.