International MBA courses are littered with case studies of how Enron failed and what went wrong at Lehman Brothers. Closer to home, the entrails of HIH Insurance and One.Tel have been thoroughly prodded in the search for the seeds of failure.
Forensically researching the causes of failure will help us understand how not to fail, but that same investigation will not necessarily help us learn how to succeed.
Chief strategy officer for Deloitte Australia John Meacock says, “We tend to look at success at a very high level … and don’t articulate the assumptions.”
“You are less likely to be disrupted if you know your core strengths and competencies and can adjust or adapt. It really is about bringing a scalpel to strategic thinking and planning not a meat cleaver.”
– John Meacock, Chief Strategy Officer, Deloitte
Instead of patting everyone on the back because budget has been reached, it’s important, Meacock says, to check the assumptions on which the budget was built at the end of an apparently successful project. If these assumptions are flawed, then what appears to be success, could in fact be a well-disguised failure.
“If a project was linked to economic growth at say an assumed 2 per cent, but in fact the economy grew by 3 per cent, you should also readjust your expectations accordingly,” Meacock says
Meacock explains that organisations wanting sustainable success must delve deep to understand how any success was derived.
“For instance, we’ve been helping an ASX 50 company with strategy,” Meacock says. “I sat with the leadership team as they talked about a certain type of project where they are making money.”
The team’s plan was to orient the business toward more of those projects. But what appeared sensible was in fact based on incomplete analysis. Meacock says: “The team wasn’t able to pinpoint precisely why they were successful in that area. They didn’t really know if it was due to an organisational core capability or whether they had a capable individual in that area?”
If it was the latter and the company bet the business on them, it would have spelled disaster if that individual was to leave.
As managing director of Australia’s leading corporate sales and management training and coaching organisation The KONA Group, Glenn Dobson believes success has to be better measured. In doing so, it can be used to motivate, reward, recognise and reprimand staff.