I was watching the hockey playoffs last night and had a thought about business. You might not find that strange given that for several years of my life hockey WAS my business. However, what occurred to me has both broader application and a less-obvious path. It has to do with obstruction.
Getty Images via @daylife
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, obstruction (and its cousins hooking and holding) is what players do to decrease the flow of the game. An easy way to think of it is as a player preventing another player who doesn’t have the puck from skating, obstructing their ability to play. Almost a decade ago, the NHL cracked down on the practice by enforcing the existing rules against it in an effort to improve the flow of the game and allow the more skilled players to show those skills. As one might expect, teams adjusted their rosters over the years to emphasize great skating and stick-handling over the clutching and grabbing that was so prevalent .
Watching the game last night, I was struck by how little free-flowing skating was going on. Many of the other games I’ve watched during the season have seemed the same. The rules, or at least their enforcement, seem to have changed. Which is the business thought.
If you’ve built your team to play the game a certain way and the rules change, how do you compete? If you’re a media company that’s built on ad revenue for eyeballs, what do you do when the audiences you’re selling evaporate to other channels? If you’re selling SEO, what happens when the algorithms change and everything you do is now wrong? Even if you’re in online commerce, what do you do with inventory when tastes change?
Ultimately, I think our success and failure revolves around change management – what happens when the rule book gets modified. We need to be thinking about that as we bring on new hires – how well have they dealt with change in the past? We need to maintain flexibility in our planning – why spend money to a budget that’s based on old rules?
I’m sure it’s frustrating to the coaches and managers when they find a different set of rules on the ice than in the rule book. I know it’s frustrating to find a different set of business conditions and consumer preferences. What do you do when the rules change?
That’s a horrible title for SEO purposes, I know, since I’ve misspelled “Culture” which is today’s topic. Not high-brow entertainment or the ones found in yogurt. Nope. Today we talk about the culture that surrounds us at work. That term – corporate culture – and what it represents is not an object of focus often enough, in my opinion. It’s often an after-thought; something that evolves on its own because no one is really paying attention. Sort of like mold. And that’s a big mistake. Continue reading
Let’s play pretend. Pretend there is a team of people working on a web project together. The team has reached the very end of the build and is hoping to get it launched soon. Suddenly, one sector of the team decides they don’t like the way something looks and proposes a change. Making the change might make the product look nicer but it won’t affect the way it works. Nothing is broken – it’s just not pretty. With deadlines looming, do you make the change? Continue reading
As I was catching up on my reading yesterday, there was a quote in an article which resonated although not in the way the speaker might have hoped. A brand manager for Shredded Wheat was talking about how his product is basing its new campaign on simplicity (one ingredient) and lack of change (how can you change the one ingredient??). While I think the campaign is fine, I quibble with this quote:
“There’s been a marked change in American values, with a greater desire for honesty, trustworthiness and security during a time of economic and societal uncertainly…”
I disagree. Those values have always been there in consumers’ minds. What’s changed is sort of related to Maslow’s hierarchy. As people’s economic lives are threatened, the reliance on their very basic consuming needs becomes more visible although those needs have always been there. There is no “greater desire,” just greater visibility on the surface.
Did anyone you know accept that his Lexus dealer was dishonest because the car was so good? No. Marketers who ignore the very basic tenets such as honesty and the other things delineated above are in deep trouble. While they may talk about a lot of other issues in their campaigns, I believe all consumers want to be able to assume that the ad is honest, the advertiser is honest, and the product is trustworthy. No amount of great marketing can overcome a bad or dishonest product. The same is true of your business even if you’re in a service area. Am I off base here?
As an aside, we drove right where the wild fires are in Myrtle Beach last week. Let’s think good thoughts for the folks down there.