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Organizational Clarity--As Clear as a Bell

Feb 27, 2008
What happens when you face an overwhelming irresistible force? You need a direction that's as clear as a bell to deal with all aspects of the irresistible force.

AT&T shows us both how and not how to do this. Until the court-ordered breakup of AT&T that separated the long distance service from the local Bell operating companies, the Bell System provided telephone service that was the envy of the world.

By contrast, in many other countries the telephone systems became government monopolies that provided less than desirable service at high costs. Even in this new century, telephone calls are difficult to make and receive in parts of many countries.

More and more governments began selling off these monopolies to the public in the 1990s as a way to help spur improvements in costs and service. Many people (especially in the northeastern part of the U.S.) will tell you that their local telephone service has deteriorated in service, while prices have soared since the divestiture of the so-called Baby Bells.

This tendency for governments to turn telephone businesses into government-owned and -operated monopolies was an irresistible force that AT&T had to deal with throughout most of the twentieth century. Early in its life as a company, AT&T realized that its ability to avoid being taken over as a government monopoly depended on having happy customers. Also, as a regulated monopoly, pricing would be dependent on having a lot of assets to serve customers, because pricing was based on a determined level of return on the assets employed by the business.

This circumstance meant that the business would have higher profits and be larger if the company had lots of happy customers, as well. AT&T invested rapidly in new technology, developing redundancies to improve reliable service, and in new equipment. Service was provided on the basis of "the customer is always right," which is especially true when every dissatisfied customer could complain to her or his member of Congress and demand that the monopoly be broken up.

The Bell System got the message about what needed to be done to maintain itself relative to the irresistible force of the governmental desire to operate many monopolies for itself, like the postal service.

What the company failed to do was to guard against another strong irresistible force, the government's desire to break up privately-owned monopolies when competition is likely to bring lower prices. It was that failure that led to the break-up of the company after many decades of unparalleled growth and success.

Does your organization understand what must be done to coexist and prosper with all of your irresistible forces?
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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