Management Articles


The Greatest Danger To Business

By: Thomas W. McKee

Thomas W. McKee is president of Advantage Point Systems, Inc., a staff development and change management firm. Thomas is an author, motivational speaker, trainer and leader. He has spoken to over 1/2 million people and taught the Advantage Point System method of change management to over 100,000 managers in companies like Hewlett Packard, Ernst and Young, Procter and Gamble, the California Department of General Services, and the IRS. ; For information about the Advantage Point System of managing change see

The greatest danger to a business is not change, transition, or risk. What is it? About 20 years ago, Parkinson wrote a series of books in which he cleverly framed his observations as “Parkinson’s laws.” A paraphrase of one of his maxims is “Whenever a company proudly announces the establishment of its beautiful, new, modern corporate headquarters, you can be sure it’s heading downhill.”

Why? Because of focusing on their business, the company’s managers are focusing on themselves. What is the greatest danger to a business? It is not risk. It is not change. It is complacency. When a company reaches a goal and is satisfied, it is in danger of failing.

When a person reaches a goal and is satisfied, that person is in danger. Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendys, was never so wrapped up in enjoying material things that he lost his desire to get the education denied him by his impoverished childhood. At age 60, he went back to high school and got his GED. He attended the prom with his wife and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by his fellow students.

Think of the businesses that once were on top but are fading memories today-Woolworth, Zenith, Studebaker. What companies today are on top but will be a fading memory tomorrow? They are the companies and organizations that fail to set new customer- focused goals.

Many managers and supervisors are tired of setting new goals. They have been setting goals for years and would like to rest on their laurels. How do you motivate your front line supervisors to set new goals? How do you motivate successful companies to raise the bar and reach for new goals? The following essentials are a must for front-line managers, supervisors and employees to get excited about future.

Employees must own their own goals: Department goals written by management are an uphill battle.

Employees must write their own goals: When front-line workers define their customers and write the goals to meet their customers needs, they will own them.

Employees must know how to think strategically: The illiterate individual of the future will not be the person who does not know how to read, but the person who does not know how to think strategically. Most employees think in terms of the task they perform, not in terms of the strategic impact of that task to the customer. Employees cannot write their own customer-focused goals if they do not think strategically.

Employees must embrace change: Last year it was TQM, this year it is Breakthrough Results. What will it be next year? Management will always be embracing a new management concept to reach goals, and employees who do not know how to embrace and manage change will be confused, angry and cynical. Employees cannot write strategic goals if they cannot embrace change.

What is the one common thread in these four essentials? Training and development. But the training is not on traditional goal setting. The training focuses on the following transition factors:
  • How to let go of the past
  • How to reduce stress during transition periods
  • How to develop a strategy for change
  • How to work “out of the box”
  • How to manage transitions
Companies, organizations and people who practice these skills will never become complacent.

© 1998 Advantage Point Systems Inc.

Other Articles by Thomas W. McKee

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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