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Consequences of tactics without purpose

When I worked as a marketing manager for a global manufacturer, our leaders tended to manage by knee-jerk, constantly reacting without purpose or direction. A tactically focused organization, the CEO would proudly declare things like

  • “We’re all so busy” without ever getting anything done.
  • “We’re putting out fires” caused by a failure to plan.
  • “We’re reorganizing for a brighter future,” as they rearranged the deck chairs on a ship that tumbled more deeply into an accelerating whirlpool with every reactive, episodic change event.

The culture tended to degenerate into factions with different agendas, fighting turf wars using petty politics and destructive infighting in a caustic environment. Individuals tended to get in their own boats and paddle the best they could or find a place to hide so they could do the minimum amount necessary to avoid getting in trouble while preparing their resumes for a job search.

Fortunately, the CEO read Beyond Entrepreneurship by Jim Collins (1995) and became an overnight convert to strategic management. This allowed me to participate in one of my first significant change management projects to transform a failing, tactically focused manufacturing company into a winning, purpose-driven global marketing organization. This was happening around the same as the GE transformation that Jack Welch wrote about in Winning (2005) and was even influenced by some of the GE tools and techniques from journal articles.

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