Stage Four Decline: Things Are Just About Over

Looking for a Savior, or a Silver Bullet, or a Magic Wand
Great Leadership Lessons, Note 29

It has been some time since I posted about Great Leadership Lessons From Jim Collins. You may want to CLICK HERE AND GO SEE THE LIST OF THEMES I have been covering in this How the Mighty Fall section of leadership lessons.

The last one I did, finished Stage Three of decline. With this thought, we move into Stage Four. Collins says this is now the time when organizations begin to look for the "savior" who will rescue them from their decline. Organizations go looking for the great leader, the genius, the magic-maker, who will wave the wand and fix all the organizational problems.

Here is the point Collins wants to make. Well, there are actually a few points.

the signature of mediocrity, jim collinsPoint One: There is no silver bullet. There is no magic wand.
There is no secret solution that is going to fix things. There are no shortcuts. There are no solutions that are going to take care of the pit that has been dug. The hole has been dug, in some cases for years. Discipline has been lacking. A mess did not suddenly erupt from nowhere. Decision after decision has led to decline. There has been consistent failure to implement the principles of moving from good to great and then the principles of "built to last" or sustaining greatness. This leads to point two.

Point Two: There is no savior.
When all the good to great, built to last principles are lacking, then, not only is there no magic want, but no superman leader can appear to save the day. Collins gives the excellent example of HP hiring the flashy Carly Fiorina to save the day for Hewlett-Packard. What these "supposed saviors" do is come in with ideas, strategies and plans that have no connection with the history or the culture of the declining organization. In fact, the plans these outsider-leaders bring in have the nature of one size fits all. It worked someplace else, so it will work here. 

It doesn't. The only thing that will work is a highly intentional return to the principles of good to great and built to last that have been abandoned.

Sometimes there is short term improvement, but that improvement is not based on substance and it does not last.

Sometimes there is a succession of silver bullets and desperate attempts to find the right savior.

Most overnight success stories are about twenty years in the making, jim collinsCollins does contrast the HP silver bullet attempt to salvage its organization with that of IBM when they brought in Louis Gerstner, Jr. What Gerstner did was to implement the best ideas of regaining greatness. Nothing flashy. No shortcuts. Just lots of hard work and discipline (disciplined people, disciplined thining and disciplined action). 

Collins reminds us - there is no overnight success.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International