Sunday, September 30, 2007

Volume 39 - "If passion drives you, let reason hold the reigns."

Previously, Volume 35 - Passion and the i.2 Brand, I've discussed the 'passion' necessary for the survival and growth of a company, and woven in those layers, the delicate but vital part the entrepreneurial owner-partners play in that overall pattern. As one 'peels the onion back' further, looking more into the depth of that discussion, one finds that the 'decision making processes' based on 'reason' is as a difficult proposition, and arguably more important, as driving the company with flaming passion.

It has always been interesting to observe the door and hardware industry from the viewpoint of an observer and consider how different manufacturers, within the same industry, serving the same market segments, paying the same wages, and recruiting from the same labor pool, with virtually the same product can have such extraordinarily different levels of service, respect (or lack of) for their base customers, and the arena which they operate.

So why is it that people at some manufacturers/suppliers make the choice of customer excellence while people elsewhere choose to be average or simply mediocre? I believe that it has as much to do with 'the decision making process' as much as 'individual passion.' The decision making process, regardless of the importance of the individual decisions, is a direct factor of overall culture that starts with ownership and management and is reinforced daily on 'good' days as well as 'bad.'

Owners, anyone with any % of the company, must be willing to invest in the physical product and the systems necessary to facilitate service efficiency, and in the case of a 'start-up' this action doesn't have to take place at the same time (reasonable decision making) based on a multitude of various factors, such as cash flow; nevertheless, both 'decision making' and 'passion' remain the driving force in the implementation of a successful enterprise. It is hard to deliver excellence in service and product when one is selling a customer a sub-standard product, and/or unable to satisfy long-term type customers without the proper technology systems. It is however impossible to deliver anything near excellence without a decision process that applauds not accepting the status quo, and challenging the stupidity of 'this is the way it has always been done.'

It is just as important, or possibly more so, to be able to make decisions that affect people through this same sort of process. For example, it is very easy for me to give an 'OK' to a question regarding any area of our business without regard for the total picture and implications in a 'passing' type conversation. It is very easy for me, as the managing partner, to answer a question without regard to what decisions are going to be made because of my response (again, without regard to the total picture - again avoiding 'the decision process'). I believe this not to be unusual. I'm very action orientated; have little or no regard for time-consuming projects or analysis. 'The ball must be driven down the field at any cost mentality,' and yet then wonder why the project wasn't up to established standards or wonder why the end result had so much collateral damage attached to it.

The fact of the matter is that as much as I personally detest organizational structure, individual growth and end results are in jeopardy by not following correct 'decision making procedures', challenging the status quo, and the 'quick' response answer to simply get onto another subject. One will inadvertently extinguish the 'passion' when not holding to 'reason' and due process. Reason mixed with total openness and collaboration ignites 'passion.' One can still maintain a great deal of flexibility, freedom, and speed with the right mixture of 'decision making process' and reason. Executed correctly this mixture will dilute the old ways of business ( 'this is the way it always has been done'), simply an excuse for not performance. A 'fresh set of eyes,' pushing the envelop and asking 'why' must be cultivated and part of that cultivation involves not suppressing 'reason' and a correct process for decisions other that 'shooting from the hip.' Difficult to admit from one of the original OK corral gun fighters.