When things are going great, there's little pressure to do things differently. We've all seen it. Great results in business or politics can hide some really serious problems. Usually by the time the hidden problems are uncovered, things have unraveled to the point that disaster can be just around the corner.
I've been in companies during great times and bad times. The truth is that companies, like governments or even individual operate a little better when everything isn't going their way. They become more open to exploring alternatives or looking at things from a different perspective.
We gotten to be a society where it's hard to admit you're wrong without supposedly losing face. Yet I believe failure only counts against you if you don't learn from it. In the post, "On being an observer," I said the following.
The great who have never failed are probably not so great...
Not owning up to your failures or mistakes is not part of the recipe for success that a leader should follow.
Of course we all know far too well the example of the current administration in Washington which has refused to admit any mistakes in the Iraq war. If appears that "Stay the course" has finally been retired, not because of any willingness to admit mistakes, but because it appears the Republican majority is in danger of disappearing. This was in the Washington Post this morning.
But the White House is cutting and running from "stay the course." A
phrase meant to connote steely resolve instead has become a symbol for
being out of touch and rigid in the face of a war that seems to grow
worse by the week, Republican strategists say. Democrats have now
turned "stay the course" into an attack line in campaign commercials,
and the Bush team is busy explaining that "stay the course" does not
actually mean stay the course.
Businesses are no different. They often blindly follow strategies because there is more ego involved than business savvy. It's easy for a CEO to cruise along with business strategies whose only tests are the current quarter. Yet businesses are different from government in one important distinction.
Businesses, even large ones, sometimes change strategies like individuals change clothing. Government, however, is like a huge container ship. Change is really hard in government. Once the ship of state is going in one direction, getting it moving in another direction takes some serious pressure, something on the order of a disappearing majority.
As individuals, we often face the need to change without the resources to accomplish that change.
No matter what the situation, those who accept their own fallibility are much more likely to implement successful change. It will be interesting to see how much change the coming election can bring to our government.
We certainly have plenty of American companies who desperately need to change.
Personally I'm hoping to change careers during the next year. So far it hasn't been easy, but my hope is that I'll respond as I have in previous pressure situations. After all, the change from being a cattle breeder to a technology sales manager was not exactly an easy one.
I know one thing, I'm approaching my new career, chronicled in "You can teach an old dog new tricks," knowing that I have a lot to learn. I've seen enough folks pretending to have all the answers to understand that it's a road to failure, even if it takes a long time to show up.