awesome wave.jpgI once collaborated with a business leader on a team, and she really liked an idea I had. After a conversation about the idea, she asked how we could make it real "without killing the awesomeness." In that moment, with that question, I immediately knew how awesomeness dies.

The Fairy Tale

So many people believe the fairy tale that goes something like this: A business exists to make a profit and a for-profit business should not engage in unprofitable behavior. As long as a business seeks out and engages in profitable behavior, the business will live happily ever after.

This big fairy tale is based on a big lie: that cause and effect are always linear and determinable. This big lie leads to the fairy tale. The fairy tale is the beginning of the myriad of short-sighted decisions made within unbalanced quantitatively driven myopic enterprises.

The people who believe in the big lie and subsequent fairy tale go about their lives looking at each and everything people are doing within a business setting or are proposing to do and start asking questions. Each of these questions is designed to determine the return on investment (ROI) of the activity or the proposed venture and then figure out how to maximize the output while minimizing the input. Once enough reductionism has been done (which they refer to as optimization or right-sizing), they then compare that activity or proposed venture against other activities or proposed ventures to see if there is an alternative with a better ratio of input to output. This is how awesomeness dies.

All organizations are in a state of growth or decline. Organizations in stasis do not exist. On one side, the growing organizations that believe in the fairy tale will be in a constant battle to figure out which initiatives have the maximal ROI ratios. A few initiatives will slip through the gates based on other criteria like risk avoidance or erosion of margin, but these will be the exception.

On the other side, declining organizations will almost assuredly rally around the fairy tale believers to right the ship by driving cost out of the enterprise and putting a singular focus on the bottom line. Some exceptions will exist.