Memphis Daily News
‘Famous Last Words’ for a Business
August 3, 2015
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald
There is a reason they are called ‘famous last words.’ They are the desperate epitaphs of what is, and what is about to change.
In business, those ‘famous last words’ are usually uttered right before the business becomes dysfunctional, expires, or, in a best case scenario, has the wisdom to hear those utterances and take them as a warning to take another look.
“This is the way we’ve always done it.”
It’s a familiar expression, usually spoken just before a business starts to decline. Organizations that reject new ideas, refuse to stretch or change with the times are writing their own epitaphs with those words.
Some organizations go so far in their resistance to change as to create a façade of implementing bold and innovative ways to do exactly what they have always done. Staying relevant in the marketplace requires continuous improvement and an organizational culture that allows for creative thinking. Never underestimate the capacity of the human mind for invention, or the ability to assimilate and use the changes made.
“We tried that before and it didn’t work.”
Perhaps you did. But that was then, this is now. Perhaps it was an idea ahead of its time, and now is the better time. Organizations often give up trying new ideas with the expectation of failure, and enter survival mode protecting the status quo. Different circumstances, new energy, new leadership and a changing marketplace can all be reasons to give a second look at an idea whose time has come.
“If they don’t like it, then they can quit.”
It’s one of those negative responses to employees’ expressed concerns. It’s the modern day version of ‘Let them eat cake,’ the famous last words widely attributed to Marie Antoinette shortly before the French Revolution, and her demise.
When those in charge make statements that diminish the state of human affairs in the organization, and refuse to look at issues from a variety of lenses, they run the risk of creating a culture of fear and intimidation that will eventually undermine the work of the organization. Yes, some will quit if things don’t improve, and it will be the stars, the ones keeping the organization together who do not see their contributions acknowledged who will move on to greener pastures. The ones left behind will seal their fate in an organization that will take a downward spiral of dysfunction.
“Don’t worry, it’s in the budget.”
Yes, but is it in the bank? Businesses relying solely on budgets when making decisions, without checking cash flow, may be in for a rude awaking when it comes time to pay the bills. Budgets are just roadmaps, and can give a false sense of security if there is no cash flowing in to cover the costs of the budgeted items. “Show me the money” might be a better mantra.
If you recognize one or more of these ‘famous last words’, perhaps it’s time to take your organization’s pulse.
Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit mcd-partners.com