“Of course, no one in pro sports ever admits to quitting. But it [is] perfectly possible to abandon all hope of winning and at the same time show up every day for work to collect a paycheck. Professional sports [has] a word for this: ‘rebuilding.’”Graph failing.jpg


Such was Michael Lewis’s observation of management and team members’ conduct in his 2003 much-discussed classic, Moneyball – The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.


Sadly, I have witnessed very much the same conduct amongst executives, managers and “team players” in many small to mid-sized business enterprises. These folks will not, of course, admit to “quitting,” but it is clear that they have given up on “winning.” Instead, they have capitulated to mediocrity.


I have been looking at trying to put into words some of the underlying thinking that causes executives and managers to capitulate in this way.


It’s out of our hands

When we are involved in discussions about stirring up new concepts for starting down the road toward “winning” again (read: a process of ongoing improvement), we frequently are met with a barrage of reasons that all of have one thing in common. Each of the objections to making a fresh effort at “winning” seem aimed at one thought: it’s out of our hands.


You surely have heard these excuses before. Perhaps, you have even repeated these mantras yourself—in your head, if not out loud.

  • Our suppliers don’t always deliver on time
  • Our customers seem to change their minds at the last minute, or order too late
  • Our workers don’t understand (or can’t understand, or don’t care enough to understand) what needs to be done
  • “Corporate” (or senior management) forces things on us


If this thought is allowed to take root and grow, we find that such companies will remain little changed from year to year. They may continue to try over and over the same tired things they have been recycling as “improvement” efforts for the last decade or so, but they are unable to break out of their rut until they begin to see something different.


What you’re suggesting won’t do what you’re promising

There are two sides to this problem. One the one side, some of those making this argument are simply declaring that they are tired of trying again and again and seeing little or no positive results from their efforts.


It may also mean that they are jaundiced, having heard too many claims and promises from consultants and software peddlers.


On the other side, this may be partly our fault. It may mean that we have not created a clear connection between the actions we are suggesting and the outcomes to be expected. If that is the case: we need to do a better job of making that connection in the minds of the hearers.


Yes, but…

In many cases, rebuttals to suggested actions for improvement that begin with “Yes, but…” are statements about how “unique” their company, their customers, their suppliers, or their situation is.


On the face of it, this sound valid.


But, when you consider the fact that, in reality, every company is unique from every other company, you begin to realize that compelling differences do not necessarily mean that all of these different companies are not facing fundamentally very similar problems in their supply chains, or elsewhere. And, if that is true—that there are fundamentally similar challenges underlying the uniqueness on the surface—then solutions that have been proven to work effectively in many companies probably may be readily adapted and adopted for improvement in other companies.


Don’t give up on winning

Giving up on “winning” only assures your place in mediocrity—or worse, failure.


But, your executive and management team needs to also realize that you are not going to improve significantly by applying again and again all of the things you have already been trying for that five, ten or fifteen years.


A fresh start on “winning” will come from a fresh approach to “winning.” Look for new concepts and think about how you might learn to apply these new concepts.


Overcoming the “given up on winning” syndrome is not easy

Our experience shows us that, under ideal circumstances, three elements are essential to help a company turnaround from “giving up”:

  1. A willingness by executives and managers to at least listen to and seriously consider new ideas—even if the ideas seem radical, at first
  2. About five days in a guided discussion with the whole executive and management team gather together
  3. A quality guide or mentor with the proper tools to help the team of executives and managers begin to unlock all their “tribal knowledge” and get them thinking in fresh, new ways about the possibilities they have before them


Don’t give up on “winning.” We can virtually assure that there is hidden potential in your enterprise that is presently invisible to you.


We can help.


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