“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at results.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill
We tend to stick to what we know. We become comfortable with it. It has worked for us in the past and should work for us in the future and so we accept it as a proven formula for success, but we often fail to consider that what was true yesterday may not be true today. Conditions change. The world around us changes. This is true in just about any endeavor one can imagine. That’s when it becomes necessary to examine the results to see if our proven formula is still working. When we look at results, we often find our strategy is no longer effective.
An ineffective strategy doesn’t necessarily mean we need an entirely new strategy. If a strategy is proven effective but no longer is producing the results we want, one of two things has usually occurred; either the conditions have changed rendering the once proven strategy outdated and flawed, or we have varied away from the original formula. I found this to be the case with my vegetable garden this year. I’ve had a very successful south Texas garden (no easy task) for several years now, however this year I didn’t get things planted as early as I normally do. The South Texas heat ravaged my tender young plants that were not yet well established and I have to admit, this year, my garden has been a dismal failure.
I find this often true in business. A store may be highly successful year in and year out, but then begin to suffer. When we look at the results, we may find the conditions have changed. Maybe the area is going through a difficult economy. Maybe we have new competition that is making headway against us. Maybe there is some other force at work that we have yet to discover. More often than not, however, we need to look inside. What are we doing differently?
When we ask ourselves that question, it can be very difficult to identify, because we often overlook the change. We simply cannot envision the gradual shift we have made. Maybe we don’t approach things with the same exuberance we had last year, or the year before. Maybe something has happened that has changed our outlook about our job or our company. Or maybe we just become bored with the same old routine. These are all symptoms of a cultural shift.
I want to piggy-back off of Winston Churchill’s quote with a follow-up by the great twentieth century business icon, Peter Drucker who said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Whenever you have job complacency, you also have a cultural shift – one that goes in the wrong direction. There is only one way to correct it and that comes from within.
Learning we’ve taken a short-cut or varied from our proven formula is easy enough to correct. I can promise I won’t wait so long again to get my garden in the ground. We can counter conditional changes. If my garden gets infested with some sort of worm or insect, I will be on it with whatever is needed to correct the problem. Making internal cultural shifts are more difficult. If I became bored or began viewing my garden as more trouble than it’s worth, then I need to come to terms with the reality that I am the problem. When I become the problem, as Drucker suggests, my own negative internal culture will destroy whatever strategy I use.
I’ve never met the person that can remain positive all the time. We all get “rubbed the wrong way”. Sometimes my wife annoys me. Sometimes my boss annoys me. Sometimes, even my old blind beagle gets on my nerves, but I refuse to let any of that get in the way of my internal culture to serve and be the best I can be. What does your internal culture look like? Is it eating your strategy for breakfast? You’re the only one that can fix it.