Small successes don’t always translate into big wins

Had a discussion this morning with one of my peers; she asked a rather interesting question: “can an organization be successful focusing on lot of small product deliveries? “   The answer like most questions these days is “it depends”. 

Over the course of the past three decades I’ve watched various business and development models come and go.   What I’ve observed from a systems perspective is that you cannot grow a business by savings.  Viscerally this sounds wrong, however, to grow a business takes investment.  No investment no growth. 

Observing nature you find the same phenomena.  All systems that grow take additional resources to grow.  Without allocating resources to growth it remains locked in a near status quo state.  I say near because typically without enough resources to repair and renew components the system will decompose also.  However, that assumes that the system is isolated in a stable environment; a huge and dangerous assumption.  When was the last time you experience any environment being stable.  Certainly today’s economy looks anything but stable.  A series of systems dynamics and little decisions has placed the world economy into a Mobius Loop pitching it back and forth between chaos and stagnation.

With that context in mind, I see too many organizations and managers using the small wins strategy towards business success.  Typically this approach is used to limit losses by timid management, using the excuse of building momentum.  The problem becomes that the next step has not been defined.  There is no there, there in the mind of these managers. 

The strategy is for them not to screw up enough to get fired.  If the project fails, well it was a small lost.  If the project succeeds, it gives the backer rights to try building something else.  The only problem is that the something else then becomes another unsure step because you were not invested enough in the first project.  Thus the next project is often driven by social pressures off from its original trajectory. 

Eventually you have hundreds of small unrelated small wins that in many cases are out of alignment.  Think of a group a small kids, all running after the ball, playing some older kids that have learned how to play as a team.  Sure the older ones have more physical abilities, but, it’s the alignment and coordination that wins the day.    

Many people decry strategies, vision and architecture these days.  However, I contend why this is so is that many strategies, visions and architectures are not or if they are they’re poorly conceived.  Recent books and research on the market are indicating that most management is not up to the task of strategy or architecture.  Small wonder, the jobs they performed and were rewarded for were on operational excellence not strategy and vision.  Maybe that’s why other corporations and nations are winning markets away and not in a temporary manner.        

If you focus on best practices which improve operation effectiveness, you’ll eventually compete on a price level as others will be doing the same.  There is only a limited competitive advantage in best practices as others eventually adopt the same. Strategy and architecture seeks to do things better and different than the crowd.   This small wins without a long term strategy result in either chaos or mediocrity.  .

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About briankseitz
I live in PacNW in a small town and work for Microsoft as a Enterprise strategy and architecture SME. I enjoy solving big complex problems, cooking and eating, woodworking and reading. I typically read between 4-8 business and technology books a month.

One Response to Small successes don’t always translate into big wins

  1. It’s hard work creating a small business but it pays off in the end! Great blog!

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