Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

Killing Projects – A Problem for Humans!

Recently it was announced that Toyota Motor Corporation has once again emerged as the biggest auto manufacturer, selling 9.75 million units in 2012.  It does this with basically three brands; Toyota, Lexus, and Scion.   Toyota is the mainstream brand, offering everything from high end sedans like the Avalon to the low end Yaris, while also offering trucks, minivans, and SUV’s.  Lexus is Toyota’s high quality luxury offering (in 2012, once again the top ranked car in the J.D Power’s initial product quality survey), and the Scion is the low cost entry targeted at the cool, youthful customer.

In contrast, while General Motors has been working over the past decade to simplify its offerings, killing the Oldsmobile and the Pontiac, it is still got a lot of work to do in this area and they are painfully slow, even after their bankruptcy of recent.  They currently offer the customer GMC, Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, plus Opel and Vauxhall in Europe.  Ford has been working hard to simplify, shedding Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, and are currently implementing their decision to kill Mercury.

Discontinuing a project, product, or service requires much more energy to achieve than most people realize.  The reason is that it is somewhat counter to human nature.  Here are the fundamental human tendencies you are fighting:

1.) Independence: People want to be on their own and be complexly independent and self-sufficient.

2.) Bias: People genuinely convince themselves that what they are doing is important and valuable to the organization, and can be extremely creative in finding ways to make that argument.

3.) Fear:  While they would never admit it, they worry about what they would do if the current activities they are involved with would be discontinued.

How can a manager deal with these tendencies?  Here are three tips that can help a lot:

1.) Rotate People Regularly:  The longer you are in a job, the more set in your ways you become and protective of the status quo.

2.) Avoid Consensus Management:  As a leader, you want the opinions of others on what to do, but after analyzing things, you need to make a decision.  If you put it out for a vote and wait for all to agree, change will rarely happen.

3.) Sense of Urgency:  Generally, the troops are in no hurry; the leader must provide the sense of urgency.  Otherwise, the human tendencies described above will sidetrack the notion of change.

Gutsy leaders get things done; keeping  the focus on the big ideas and killing off the marginal.


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