The 10 Worst Things Businesses Do

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Without businesses our lives would, generally speaking, be much poorer. At their best businesses innovate and deliver incredible products and services but at their worst – businesses can be self-destructive and foolish. There are some seriously bad ideas that businesses inflict on themselves and others too and that’s where we’re going with this list – the 10 worst things businesses do:

Forcing Company Values

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Company values, in their own right, aren’t a terrible idea. Best practice says that if you can model your business’s values on the people that represent your business – you can increase the relationship between your staff members and your business. It makes it easy to explain how your business benefits its customers and helps customers see the way you work.

Sadly, there are a great number of businesses too stupid to work this out for themselves. Instead, they come up with a series of values in the boardroom and then expect their employees to live by them. It’s an incredibly foolish way to behave. You can’t expect your employees to abandon their own values and adopt others based on an instruction from on high. Worse, businesses that do this – rarely expect their leaders to take on these values and thus there’s very little chance of anyone else doing so.

In the end it’s a waste of money and time which causes frustration and reduced productivity rather than uniting a company in a common cause.

Focus Only on Money

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Sure, there’s a legal responsibility for businesses to make money for their shareholders but to pursue this without regard for anything more is likely to lead to an amoral workplace that eventually gets into a lot of trouble.

Without a broader corporate social responsibility outlook a company is failing to engage with the community it serves. When that community realizes it is being used; it will take its business elsewhere. Doing the right thing may cost a little extra in the short-term but in the long-term it’s what business reputations are built on.

Incentivizing Performance with Rewards

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There’s nothing wrong with rewards intrinsically but their pull on the imagination of the average employee is grossly over-estimated. Yes, there are certain groups of people, such as salespeople, who may respond positively to a rewards based performance system but to many other groups – it will just come across as unethical and cutthroat.

The incentive to perform should be built into the company culture, the conditions of employment and the work environment itself. It shouldn’t be an add on which encourages people to go against their core values to gain a minor competitive edge.

Expecting the Company To Last Forever

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If the executive team thinks that their way of doing business will last forever – the business is doomed in the long-term. Companies that survive recognize that they will have to constantly change and evolve to remain competitive.

Kodak-Eastman invented the digital camera. Where are they today? Lost to history thanks to the executive team’s refusal to believe that people would transition from film to digital.

Blackberry was the most successful business mobile device and a few short years later – they’d disappeared. Why? Because their executive team had a very distinct permanent vision for the company and if you didn’t agree – you got fired.

A company that thinks what works today, will work tomorrow is simply waiting to run aground.

Uses a Tick Box Approach to Performance Management

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When a company gets stuck in a process driven system which is implemented without thought – it’s going to mean trouble in the long run. It’s not that processes aren’t important, they can very much help streamline activity in a business, it’s that they mustn’t be a straightjacket which prevents innovation.

Leadership requires change. It demands that the company must evolve each day to be better than the day before. A business which gets stuck in checklists and tick boxes is one where leadership is lacking. The only thing that remains in these businesses is management and when everyone is managed to a high degree; burnout is common and business failure is not far behind.

Cutting Back on Training When The Economy is Choppy

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When things get hard in the economy; there’s a tendency to cut costs and the first thing to go is usually the company training budget. Yet, here’s the thing – if you need to compete strongly in tough conditions; it’s almost 100% guaranteed that your people will need a ton of development to do this successfully.

Training is often the difference between making the grade and going under. It’s the right thing to do not just from a skills perspective but also from a human capital perspective. Employers who value and invest in their employees in times of hardship are those employers that employees will want to work for and work hard for.

Relying on Management Book Fads to Drive the Business

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Sure, there are some great ideas in management books but they’re not a great way to run a business. Each business is unique and while an idea may be perfect for one organization, it may be a complete disaster in others. The idea of a leadership team which changes direction constantly based on the latest fad in management sends shivers down employee spines.

If you want your business to succeed you need to encourage people to think and to debate ideas and their implementation (if they are to be implemented at all). You can’t replace that process with the idea bank of a well-intentioned author. It won’t work.

Assuming Streamlining is the Key to All Competitive Situations

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Streamlining is the process by which a company tries to reduce costs by either doing more with the same resources or reducing the number of resources required to produce the same. It’s not a terrible strategy and it can produce great results but it’s not the only strategy to achieve a competitive advantage. An over-reliance on streamlining makes employees feel overworked and disposable; a situation which can lead to high-levels of staff churn and ever-increasing costs associated with onboarding.

Competing well also involves knowing the market well, spotting emerging trends, price and value positioning effectively and balancing customer needs with company needs. This process can’t be streamlined or ignored – if you want a successful business, investing in it will make all the difference.

Basing All Decisions on Past Decisions

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When thing start to go wrong; one of the key mistakes businesses make is to redouble their efforts on “what’s worked well in the past”. The reason things go wrong for successful businesses is usually that something else in the market has changed. The only way to tackle this change is to reinvent the way you do business because if you don’t – others will.

If you get it right, you can achieve incredible things, just like Steve Jobs did on his triumphant return to Apple. Constant radical reinvention led to the iPod, then the iPhone and then the iPad. Companies that rest on the laurels of yesterday’s competitions quickly get left behind by those willing to undergo the trauma of constant reinvention.

Dumping New Strategies on Employees

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If you’re going to make major changes in your business strategy – that’s a great idea. If you’re then going to dump those strategies on employees and expect them to make them work; that’s a lousy idea.

The best change processes aren’t random inflictions of instructions; they’re managed processes that enable people to find their place in the new order and help the transition along. That will often mean bringing an external change agent (or two) on to the team as the strategic change is implemented. It’s that managed process that makes people feel empowered by change rather than threatened by it.