Shake Up Your Business – It Can Be A Good Thing!

I saw this article from Dan and had to share. Simplicity and creativity are often themes you’ll find on WeirdBlog. Enjoy!

By Dan Coughlin

Barb and I have a special marriage bonding ritual. On Sunday nights we put the kids to bed and then we cuddle up and watch Desperate Housewives. No matter what challenges we’re facing nothing compares to the lives on Wisteria Lane. Hey, don’t blame me. Barb was the one who wanted me to watch Teri Hatcher and I just got hooked.

At the end of season four, something very strange happened. The last scene started with three words: Five Years Later. Everything seemed turned upside down. Susan had a new husband, Lynette and Tom’s young children were suddenly teenagers, Bre was a mega–successful party planner, and Eva Longoria inexplicably looked frumpy. We thought maybe it was just an end of the season joke, but we found out the next day that the producer, Marc Cherry, had created these changes with a purpose in mind.

He said he just wanted to start the next season with a clean slate. He found that he was falling into a trap of extending story lines from the first three seasons, and he wanted an opportunity to energize the creativity on the show. So he shook things up and took a chance. The show might bomb, but at least he demonstrated the courage not to settle for the status quo. Instead he reached for something new, within the framework of the show he created.

Apple’s Forays into the Wilderness
Sometimes we forget that Apple was not always Fortune’s most admired company in the world. Back in the late 1990s Apple was doing everything it could to reduce inventory, get focused, and avoid bankruptcy. So they decided to shake things up, with a purpose in mind. They decided to open up Apple retail stores so that customers could see their products up close and get to know them better. They were also able to provide great hands–on training. Gateway Computers had just exited retail stores having lost a ton of money. Critics said that Apple would regret opening up stores. Well, let’s see. They soon generated a billion dollars a year through those stores, and later generated a billion dollars a quarter. Sometimes it’s worth it to shake things up.

New Ideas Don’t Always Work, But They Do Open Up New Possibilities
Thomas Edison was always shaking things up and oftentimes failing spectacularly. Not just in light bulbs, but in concrete and phonographs and telephones and on and on. But even in his failures he found some nuisance that could be used in combination with other ideas. Same could be said for Walt Disney and GE and virtually every successful person and organization. Be willing to mix things up.

To be Purposeful You Have To Have a Purpose
Why does your organization exist? Don’t look at your corporate brochure, just tell me conversationally why your organization exists. What is its purpose? I’ve helped dozens of organizations and groups answer that question for themselves, but I almost never took the time to think about it for my one–person business. Then it dawned on me that no matter how big or small a business is, it has to have a purpose in order to shake things up with a purpose.

On a flight home last week I started doodling around in the back of a book and I landed on my company’s mission and philosophy. Those words seem so fancy for such a small enterprise, but the impact a company has on other people is not based on the number of employees it has. It is based on the value contributed to the customers.

Here’s The Coughlin Company’s Mission & Philosophy:

  • Provide practical processes to propel great performances.
  • Embrace simplicity and avoid process creep.

Those 13 words summarized my whole approach to creating value for customers. At the end of the day, my work is to give you a process you can consider using to improve your results. Also, as I have written before, I’ve noticed that smart, hard–working people tend to want processes that are really complicated because simple ones seem too easy. Smart, hard–working folks tend to take simple processes that are delivering really good results and make them really complicated in the hopes of achieving amazing results. It doesn’t usually work that way. My philosophy is to encourage people to embrace simple approaches and then work to hone them to an even greater degree of simplicity rather than a greater degree of complexity.

Clarify Your Purpose
In order to shake things up for yourself or your organization, clarify your purpose. Then within that purpose ask yourself, “What can I do or we do to mix up what we’re doing and generate new levels of innovation, creativity and customer value?” Don’t try 20 changes. Just select one or two things you’re going to shake up a bit and see what possibilities those changes create.

Book Recommendations
I read two wonderful books this month: “The Enzo Ferrari Story” by Enzo Ferrari, and “Inside Steve’s Brain” by Leander Kahney. Both of these books talk a great deal about the importance of shaking things up with a purpose in mind at Ferrari and at Apple.

Soak up the ideas, good and bad, from everything you do and see, in and out of the office. Then decide what aligns with your purpose. Determine what’s worth giving a shot. And ensure the process is simple. Sometimes it’s hard to fathom that it can be, just that easy.

Dan Coughlin is a management consultant and author of “Accelerate: 20 Practical Lessons to Boost Business Momentum”. He speaks on entrepreneurial habits, quality, leadership, branding, sales, and innovation

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6 thoughts on “Shake Up Your Business – It Can Be A Good Thing!

  1. I can relate to this article. I’m always mixing it up with the “what ifs”. Yup. That’s me. I’m the constent mixer, searching for another angle around the same old purpose; another angle for more support; another idea that will renew interest. Problem is when an organization that dosen’t have anyone with the talent to put legs to opportunities that DO arise or talent to do important functions such as a data entry person, the administrative organizer, the compulsive planner to stabilze the navigation of purpose, and without visionary leadership… shaking it up is volatile proposition. It would be kind of like shaking up a bottle of cheap champagne that has been fermenting for far too long. POP! Fizz!

  2. @Life as a Swizzle Stick – Good points. I think another principle would be a “willingness” to shake things up. Some do not have the guts to shake up an org/team. While on the other hand, there are some who do it ALL the time. I hold to the notion that you DO NOT shake up an organization or team just for the sake of shaking it up — there always has to be a purpose and that purpose has to be communicated — not forced upon an organization/team. I have seen the devastating affects of shaking up an organization with out communicating the 4 W’s+H: Who, What, Why, Where, plus How.

    Don’t you know Apple’s plans for a store were heavily discussed and communicated and thought through. The idea may have been a catalyst, but the execution was well planned.

    I know of one organization that goes through shake-ups almost every 3-4 years and they have never been well planned or thought through. There is a whole message about leadership there. Maybe for another time.

    Thanks for commenting! -eb

  3. I love this post, Dan. The part about smart people wanting to complicate simple processes was really illustrated for me at my last job where the Development Director took a simple and easy to use donor database and complicated it to the point where she can barely get a cogent report out of it without a lot of hassle. I think a number of people confuse complexity with scalability.

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