The Undisciplined Pursuit of the "Wrong Stuff"

The More is not the Problem...the Wrong Stuff is the Problem
Great Leadership Lessons, Note 24

I have a friend who is a successful small business owner. His business involved providing a product and the service for installing the product. My friend reads a lot about leadership. He knows how to strategize, build teams, lead change, solve problems; he has a good brand, solid reputation, competitive prices... Like I said - he is successful. 

A few years ago, he was "lured" by a product line outside his CORE business. It was adjacent to what he did, but still, outside his core. That product, at the time, was a pretty hot item. Indicators were that it would continue to be in demand, he thought  with a little bit of investment, he could add this product (and service) and make a killing. To make a long story short - he invested a lot of money, a lot of time and it was not working. Then, since he had made the investment, he felt he could not back out and take the loss. So, invest more time, more money, more personnel, more-more-more... and in the end, he could not make it work.

This occurred over about a two year time period. My friend lost money during that time. He lost focus during that time. His CORE business was healthy and still competitive, but he neglected to grow that business, so it became somewhat sluggish. He was putting his energy into the "sure money making product" that was outside his CORE. Wiser, sadder, and not as financially sound - he pulled the plug. 

If you missed yesterday's post, The Undisciplined Pursuit of More, Great Leadership Lessons, Note 23, be sure to read it before you do this one. I think Collins is brilliant on this point. I would just like to rephrase it a bit so it captures his essential point.

When Collins talks about the MORE... you have to understand he is talking about the WRONG STUFF. The wrong stuff (I'll tell you what it is in a moment) is then pursued in the wrong way and with the wrong motives/goals.

MORE is great - as long as the MORE is your CORE. Here is where I think Collins could have used some more precise language. I like to say it this way:

Pursue the MORE when it's your CORE.
If you're not SURE, show it the DOOR.

 

If it is not your CORE, then in the vast majority of situations - do not go after it. Let it go. Turn away from it. "Show it the door" meaning - you say it is wanted, you're not interested, no thanks. If you do pursue it, then you are leading in undisciplined ways. Now, with this perspective I let's unpack this just a bit.
 

The undisciplined pursuit of the wrong stuff means this:

ONE.  Growth for the sake of growth.
Never, you can't do it and can't sustain it. If it is outside your CORE, then even if it is attractive in its growth potential - it is a distraction (at best) and more likely a disaster waiting to happen. It takes discipline to say NO to these things.

TWO.  Frenetic innovation.
Even if it is in your core area, just trying new things isn't strategic. That's the key word. Be strategic in your innovation. Now, you have to hold this one with another leadership idea from Collins. "Try a lot of stuff and keep what works." That is a great idea, but don't think Collins is saying do whatever you want. You must always be strategic in the stuff you try. I have an acquaintance who reads a lot, thinks a lot and dreams a lot. About once a week (okay - just a little exaggeration, but not much), he has a new idea that he thinks is the latest, greatest idea. And he is ready to say - let's do it.

On one of those ideas, I said - that is a great idea, but it is an utterly wrong idea for you. It has no alignment with your organization. You don't have the people to implement that idea. And if you did - that idea goes counter to stuff you had been doing quite well.

That is what Collins is talking about. You can get too many ideas you then feverishly want to try. Just because an idea is new, interesting and someone else is doing it well - that does not mean you should try it.

I personally think this is one of the problems of too many church growth conferences. The "experts" are always trotting out their latest model, method, strategy as the best thing since Acts 2. Some of these ideas are simply brilliant. That does not mean it is a brilliant idea for you. But without a high level of discipline, you will move into an undisciplined attempt to try the new thing.

All innovation must be viewed in light of your organization's CORE and your DNA-values. Most new ideas will not be a fit.
Be disciplined.
Be strategic.

THREE. You inevitably neglect your CORE, your HedgeHog.
I have a lot of clarity about the LCI HedgeHog. I know what we are very good at. I know our products, our services, our processes, our values, our preferred audience, our proven strategies, our brand-flavor that is our distinctive.

Every now and then, because I am a "deep generalist" who is interested in a lot of different domains and fields, I begin to "drift." It is not intentional. It is not irrational. It is just easy and natural. A few months ago I was really excited about another idea-product-service I thought we could offer. I had some knowledge about this. It was a very legitimate and needed service. I began to put my energy into more research, planning and some initial development.

Every hour I put into that focus, was time I could not give to the CORE of LCI. And even though our CORE is clearly identified and we already have many good and useful products and services - there are other products/services that are not yet ready to be offered. And here I was running down a different path. I lost hours of time when I could have been focusing on the LCI CORE. That is a lack of discipline in the pursuit of the wrong stuff. (Remember - it is wrong for you and your organization.)
 

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International

BrianRice@lcileaders.org