Reading Harvard Business Review’s blog “Is the U.S. Killing Its Innovation Machine” I am reminded of the continual challenge of quality managers and entrepreneurs : the need to balance the near and long term. In fact most, if not all, of the significant challenges facing organizations today result from the failing of leadership to convey the value of long term goals to stakeholders for fear of the near. The “Tyranny of the Urgent” as Hummel wrote. Nowhere is this more true than in the franchise business mode, where the temptation of selling franchises that hold promise for easy riches in the near term can undermine any hope for longevity.
Its easy to “demand” results: particularly when there is so little understanding as to how those “results” might be achieved. Sadly many believe such demands are a sign of leadership: funny as that is. This faulty thinking that is at the center of huge failings ( think GM and the recent Wall Street debacle as examples). In franchise development, particularly during slow economic times, the opportunity for brands to separate themselves from the pack is greatest but only through an effort of focusing on core business model issues and opportunities. Trying to figure out how to sell more franchises isn’t the answer, although for many that remains the solution.
The principal role of intelligent leaders in franchising or any other industry is to illuminate their organization about the need to choose between the status quo and a future of greater potential. As the article, “Pleasing Wall Street is a Poor Excuse for Bad Decisions” put it: good decisions rarely have much to do with the near term. No matter if you are a public or private enterprise, for profit or not for profit, the near term result should never be driven at the cost of the big picture. Dr. Ed Catmull, founder of Pixar, who wrote the article notes, among other things:
Managers who focus on maximizing short-term profits end up driving out things that generate long-term value — like R&D. They use all sorts of excuses when they make those decisions, including the need to please Wall Street and create shareholder value. But they’re just excuses for poor thinking.
We need business leaders who have a respect for technical issues even if they don’t have technical backgrounds. In a lot of U.S. industries, including cars and even computers, many managers don’t think of technology as a core competency, and this attitude leads them to farm out technical issues. But we live in a technical society; technology is just fundamental to our way of life. Technical understanding should be a core competency of any company.
Watch Ed’s description about how his firm, Pixar, was and is able to innovate. He is a smart man and I concur with his views. Near term results by the way are NOT at the center of their success but other more important things are. What do you think about that ?