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Don't Bother Me With Your Help--Can't You See I'm Busy?

Mar 9, 2008
Irresistible forces have a way of arriving at what appear to be inopportune times. This timing can mean that those who normally deal with new issues are already occupied with other pressing matters, and that budgets for new initiatives are already committed.

The result can be that a delay occurs in determining what response is appropriate. Having the same people deal with every important issue causes lost momentum in the same way that closing off several lanes of traffic for construction creates a bottleneck and a snail-trail of cars and trucks during "rush" hour.

In the early 1980s, one of the fastest growing and most successful high technology companies in the United States experienced just such a bottleneck. The company served an important segment of the personal computer industry and enjoyed the leading market share position.

Suddenly, a large number of new technology trends combined at the same time to require a change in the existing technology. The company correctly perceived that its current products would be made totally obsolete by new methods of manufacture from any one of several different directions.

Fortunately, the company had a tremendous research department that responded very well on all fronts. Within a year, terrific technical progress was occurring in all the areas of concern. The company was relieved and pleased.

Yet the company soon was devastated by other irresistible forces related to rapid growth and had to be sold at a fraction of its former value to a larger company. Why? Although the company conquered the irresistible forces brought by the new technology, that effort took up so much of its time and attention of the research group that the company found itself making enormous blunders in manufacturing because of insufficient support from the researchers.

The company always had the irresistible force of rapid growth to deal with. In its industry, this growth meant doubling the company's manufacturing capacity every 18 months in order to hold market share. As a result, new facilities constantly needed to be planned, new equipment ordered and installed, and new employees trained and supervised.

To prepare for this growth, the company had always relied on two people: the head of manufacturing and the person who technically supervised one part of the manufacturing process. The first person developed serious personal problems and had to be replaced with little warning.

Just before he left, the manufacturing head erratically and for no apparent reason canceled all orders for new manufacturing equipment for the next year without telling anyone. Since the equipment normally took a year to be delivered, it was a year before this information came to anyone's attention.

The head of the technical process was then asked to do the impossible and fill the wide capacity gap. The technical person felt that he was under too much pressure, saw little personal benefit from solving the problem, and left to join a competitor who swooped in. As soon as the second man left, the technical process he supervised crashed and no one could resurrect it.

The company then had to rely on costly outside suppliers who themselves had limited excess capacity to share for this emergency, causing both company sales and profits to evaporate. That crisis marked the end of the company's success.

For many years the technical person and the research department had been given the joint assignment of documenting this particular technical process, so that it could be properly maintained without the technical person's special knowledge, experience, and skill. Because of the time pressures on everyone involved to deal with the various irresistible forces, this documentation never took place. The most important part of the manufacturing process and the technical skills to support it were foreign to the rest of those who manufactured the product. Without the ability to perform these crucial steps, the company lost all of its cost advantage at a time when it was capacity constrained. What a dual blow!

Years earlier advisors had recommended that the company diversify its sources of this technical process so that just such a collapse in production capability would not be catastrophic. The irresistible forces had also conspired to keep key personnel too busy to work on that alternative, as well, until it was too late.

The lesson here is that key people, no matter how capable or appropriate for the task, must always be left with enough extra time and resources to be able to meet all of the essential tasks in order to handle irresistible forces. This planning must be a top priority, superseding the importance of any other given task. Otherwise, the irresistible force you ignore may be the one that gets you.
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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