March 26, 2007
News & Opinion: Excerpt from Ignited
Managers! Light Up Your Company and Career
This excerpt is taken from Ignited: Managers! Light Up Your Company and Career by Vince Thompson.
Ignition Point 4: The Landscape
The Power of the Scout
One of the most common tendencies of any business is to become inward-focused. It's also one of the most deadly. "Navel-gazing" may be all right for Zen students who want to tune out the world and become more connected with their inner, spiritual essence. But companies that spend too much time navel-gazing are so enamored with and fascinated by themselves--their brilliantly-designed processes, their wonderful corporate culture, their admirable history, their fabulous products and services--that they gradually lose sight of the purpose of it all: serving customers.
It's understandable that this should happen. As a company grows, an increasing degree of self-consciousness is necessary and important. Managers need to take time to reflect on how the company operates, to develop systems that are adaptive and flexible, and to massage the culture so that positive traits are encouraged and negative traits are squashed. All of this requires some self-analysis. A company that can't perform such inward-focused analysis is doomed to grow willy-nilly, ending up with structures that make little sense and often don't work.
Furthermore, with increasing size comes growing complexity, which inevitably requires rules, standardization, and internal systems of communication. When a company has 6 or 12 or even 50 employees, ideas, strategies, plans, and methods can be shared by osmosis. Get much bigger, and you need ways of making sure that everyone is in the loop and on the same page. Such dreaded phenomena as the weekly staff meeting, the company newsletter, the procedures manual, and even (horrors!) the Human Resources department all come into being. Software systems to organize and link the multiplying parts of the company become increasingly complicated and important.With these phenomena comes a staff of people--small at first, but growing over time--to create, administer, and maintain them.
Here is where the risk of navel-gazing arises. As soon as internal systems become important elements in your company's functioning, one or two or a handful of your people will get the mistaken impression that they are the most important elements. These people become “keepers of the systems,