Sunday, June 1, 2008

Killing the Gilded Goose – Knowing when to Quit or …

So you have a team that's been working on the next big thing – this could be your golden goose, providing golden eggs for all stakeholders, for eternity. Sounds splendid. The opportunity is enormous. You've all drank the Kool-Aid and bought into the projections. "Things" have been developing. The technology is maturing. You have some early prototypes that prospective customers have seen; these customers have provided positive feedback. Your sales and biz dev people are wetting the appetites of past and prospective customers, and courting interested partners. Your CEO is pitching investors and other stakeholders.

Then BLAM - out of nowhere comes a competitor you didn’t see because YourCo was focused internally on maturing your baby. SO WHAT DO YOU DO? The ordinary organization will continue on doing the same things they were already doing albeit with increased nervousness, oft dampened spirits, and questions that go unanswered.

The Extraordinary organization will rally the troops, draw new battle plans (exuse the war analogies) and put in place new strategies and execution tactics. After all, the war theatre has now changed.

The Extraordinary organization knows it is time for Authentic Dialogue AND effective Leadership AND Followership.

Authentic Dialogue – get the right people to the table for discussion without hidden, personal agendas. This is open dialogue without the fear of reprisal. It is time for critical thinking, active listening and a shared purpose. Think Apollo 13 & saving astronauts. See related post – Saving Apollo 13 Astronauts and YourCo.

Leadership – this is the time for leadership to be informed, report progress and make the vision and execution path clear and credible. This is a time for positive, truthful, encouraging words, as well as CEO action that backs those words up. This is not a time for FAITH BASED EXECUTION.

Remember “Words Alone are not an Investment”

– this is the concept of the wood behind one arrow. When the CEO or other leadership charts the direction it is time to get in line and execute along the communicated path. No deviant paths, etc. If your path was better, you would have mentioned it in the Authentic Dialogue, correct? If you understand the new direction better than your colleagues, help them to get on board. Carry the message. Communicate the vision. Make it easier for others to adopt.

A wise board member once said "People don't dislike change - they dislike ambiguity"

YourCo might not be in this situation right now. But – if you have a broad enough innovation portfolio that is relevant to real customers, chances are you will light up the competition and you will face tough choices. So, when do you know it is time to kill the “golden goose” whose time has not yet come? When is it time to shift resources, direction, garner new alliances, sell out, acquire technology, etc.

Chances are you cannot answer this alone, nor can your CEO so you better get to the table and start talking.

IDEA! Have a mix of leading and lagging indicators coupled with operating mechanisms that tell you where YourCo is with respect to (wrt) the competition, the opportunity, etc.
Exercise: have some authentic dialogue around this with your team.

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