Knowing Which End Is Up

Imagine this: you’re sitting in your physician’s office and she walks in, takes one look at you, scribbles out a prescription and says, “Take one of these a day and call me in a week.” You reply, “But you didn’t even ask me any questions or give me any tests.” She responds, “I gave these to my last three patients and they all got better so I know they’ll work for you.”

This sounds ridiculous in a medical situation but it happens all the time in business. A company’s sales are declining and someone picks up one of the many “prescription books.” The book says that if you do what these successful companies did (i.e., “break all the rules,” “create a customer-centric organization,” “innovate or die,” etc.) that you too will rocket to stardom. What the majority of these books don’t do is clearly diagnose the context that the organizations were in as they ascended their stairways to success.

In medicine, the adage is “prescription without diagnosis equals malpractice. Without a keen understanding of your business context, it’s impossible to determine if the business prescription will indeed “cure what ails you.”

Do you have a good feel for the current context of your business? What are the top three things happening relative to your market, customers, competitors and company? If we don’t know what’s happening around us, there’s a good chance it’s happening to us.

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