Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's the end of the world as we know it . . .

. . . and I feel fine.

As the old song goes.

Last week, Jon Stewart again played pin the tail on the news of the world, highlighting a week of catastrophe, disaster, human error, and just plain folly that was enough to make you laugh or cry or both.

The stock market goes on a roller-coaster ride--and even worse than the ride, nobody can explain why it happened. Greece was so far in debt it faced national bankruptcy--and the EU intervened and awarded it more debt. The out-of-control oil spill off the Gulf Coast stayed out of control. Goldman Sachs and Wall Street also stayed out of control.

It made for great Comedy Central fodder.

But when you stop laughing, what do you do?

If you're running a business, starting a business, trying to make sense of your business (or your life--not that there's much difference these days), what do you do?

A few thoughts:

If you keep score by tracking the stock market you will drive yourself insane. It's the default metric for our economy, and it's a really really bad one.

Try measuring customer satisfaction instead. Or customer retention. Or customer loyalty.

Long ago Peter Drucker famously said, the purpose of a business is to make and keep a customer.

He famously did not say, the purpose of a business is to maximize shareholder value and drive up your stock price.

Another metric that matters: Try measuring employee satisfaction. Employee retention. Employee loyalty.

Do an audit of your corporate culture. Have you let toxic times make your corporate culture a toxic waste dump?

Another key task of leaders who get it: How are you making sense out of these turbulent times--times that defy anyone making sense of them, times that require you to make sense of them? Your job--as leader in a company or leader of your own life--is to make sense out of all the noise that fills the airwaves. And after you've begun to assemble your own story, to tell it to those around you. Test drive it. Get feedback. Adapt it to new information and fresh facts.

Take a hard look at the economics you've adopted in your work and your life. Does your spending pattern reflect a past that no longer exists? Are you paying for the vestigial remains of a way of life that has gone by the boards? With so much inexplicable change, why carry excess baggage? Why not use the chaos of the moment as a chance to lighten your load, challenge your spending habits, reexamine business as usual?

Then flip that coin on its head: where are the opportunities that you see that others may be too sea-sick to see? I've said it before: innovation is applied logic. What is the logic that's unfolding in front of you that represents a chance to grow, innovate, explore new territory, exploit a time of change?

It may be the end of the world as we know it . . . so the question is, what comes next?

Why not seize the moment to help create the new! Try it--and see if it makes you feel fine!

All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb