23 Aug 2017

All Impetus Is Towards Decline

This rather gloomy prediction may not be the most uplifting thing you read today so you will have to draw on some of the special magic that all true managers have, your perseverance and drive.

What do I mean by this and how should we respond?

I live in a house built in 1908, it has cracks in the brickwork, walls that display the scars of old repairs and alterations. The woodwork is in decent shape although not many angles are ‘right’ anymore and the front bay has slumped into a complex 3-D shape that defies repair or modification. It is draughty and cold in winter but pleasantly cool in summer. We have to paint every 5 years or so to prevent further decay and so this house is, by modern standards, high maintenance.

I imagine that your business is the same in many ways.

Clients drift away if left unattended, products become less competitive and obsolete as time wears on. Like a spoilt child, technology is capricious and requires constant attention and renewal, the methods you employ to process data and information are slowly proven inefficient or instantly rendered useless by a change in legislation or an advance in thinking.

Left alone, your business will decline.

Your people are part of this equation. I’ll avoid the obvious, unworthy superficial observations about the old and the young and focus on the how a business can maintain cultural strength and strategic capability through the constant renewal of skill and attitude – both of which suffer from the impetus of decline. Rarely contested is the argument in favour of a product strategy or the need for a constant focus on the precarious balance of cost and value. In the light of the recent ransomware attacks, only the terminally cost-conscious will decide against paying the trite fee for the next Microsoft upgrade for their Windows platform.

If we shine the same light of scrutiny on how a business approaches the maintenance, renewal and upgrade of the people skills and attitudes, I know what will be found. For the most part actions will be taken in crisis – people leave the business and take their unique skill with them, the company finds itself outside the current employment law or Health and Safety legislation. Bullying by management chases away the principled, sales decline from laziness chases away the customers, lowering standards results in poor recruitment, lacklustre induction practices result in further cultural decline – oh my, this is depressing.

In this era, great effort is required to stand still against your competition.

To be competitive requires at least equal energy being applied to every aspect of your business as that applied by your competition, every aspect. To achieve competitive advantage against lively competition, you have to apply greater levels of everything to every aspect of your business, first to counter the impetus towards decline and second to create impetus towards better.

On Dave Brailsford, Team Principle of Team Sky

“Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement”.