One Size Doesn’t Fit All

business leadership entrepreneurshipOn a recent business trip to the East Coast, I was struck with how each company involved was successful but in very different ways from one another. While on the trip, I also ran across this article that basically throws out a lot of commonly held beliefs about how businesses should be run – or as the author puts it, there are some bad management “fads” out there. The trip and article combined got me thinking about how “one size does not fit all” when it comes to business approaches and that it’s critical to discern what is right for your business and brand.

In the article, author Geoffrey James laughs at 7 common approaches to “good management and I found myself laughing too, because I think he’s right. At least as far as these approaches apply to small and medium-sized enterprises. He’s right in his description of why they don’t work over the long term. However, they probably had an impact when they were first implemented, at least in their ability to “disrupt” the status quo, which can be very helpful, (see my blog post about disruption here). But that wears off quickly and businesses and people fall right back into doing things their own way.

There are two main reasons I think the 7 “fads” do not work over the long term in business. First, every business is different and what works for a Fortune 500 of pharmaceuticals will not work in a $30M manufacturer of auto parts. Leaders automatically think that if they do it “like the big boys,” they will be doing the right thing. Wrong. There are so many differences, resources not being the least of them, that you will never get an apples-to-apples comparison, so don’t even try. Don’t try to be like someone else, try to be more of who you are.

James also says that understanding your core competency is a “fad.” I would argue that this is only a fad if you’ve identified the wrong core competency. It’s not what you think it is, it’s what your customers think it is. Go outside for consensus, not inside, you’ve been drinking your own Kool-Aid™ for too long.

The second reason none of these work over the long term is that execution is the key to success for all of them. Well-intentioned leaders start by implementing one or more of these fad management techniques, and slowly but surely each gets modified, altered, ignored, or completely changed from its original purpose or intent. It’s amazing how many development projects get far down the road and if you look back at the stated purpose, they aren’t even on the same planet any more, (assuming they even had one at the start).

Bottom line, don’t be like sheep and follow the latest fad to make your business succeed or believe there is a silver bullet out there that will make things better. There are multiple ways of being successful, find yours by asking questions of the right people. Good products, services, people and a strategy win the day every time over the latest and greatest best practice. Trust your instincts and ask your customers.