Every problem in business starts small.
The chain of events that leads a CEO to step down because his global car manufacturing company was caught cheating at an emissions test began locally when team managers created a permissive culture of “win at any cost” which added to a “tolerance of rule breaking” within the company.
By failing to execute big solutions to its small problems VW created a massive problem for itself which cost the company its global pole position in car manufacturing and billion in lost sales, fines and damages.
There is a reason small problems happen. That reason needs to be addressed. Solved. Lessons learnt from it. When this doesn’t happen, problems ignored never go away. They begin to accumulate, creating a chain of internal errors that is simply waiting for the next weakness in its containment structure to break through.
There are countless examples: Disrespect for one another that leads to systemic sexual harassment. An inability to respect customer opinions leads to major reputational damage. An unwillingness to consider that customers have rights that leads to a $1 billion loss and a culture of obfuscation and non-transparency that led to lying in an epic scale and, eventually, fraud.
None of this started as a “big idea”, a top-down, planned, orchestrated scam designed to bamboozle the world. It all became possible incrementally, through the accumulation of errors and dishonest practices that were overlooked until it became impossible to resist the push of the next step. And then the next.
The point is that the road to hell may indeed be paved with good intentions but it’s the slippery slope of permissive management and incremental, broken rules that actually gets you there.
The world is changing. Not overnight and not all at once, but it is changing nevertheless. In my talks to corporate groups, CEOs, VPs and industry leaders I gleam insights of how this change is happening. What evidence exists. Why some things happen and not others and how we can best take advantage of it all to do better. In Observations I catalogue it all. Brief, to the point and open to discussion.