Life Cycle of a Silver Bullet: A Parable About Big Ideas

Frank Patrick, in his Focused Performance Weblog, cites a fascinating parable about blindly following the big idea, and what tends to happen when organizations try to implement the latest management fad. The parable is written by Sarah Sheard of the Software Development Consortium, and you can read it by clicking here. Patrick provides some wise […]

Frank Patrick, in his Focused Performance Weblog, cites a fascinating parable about blindly following the big idea, and what tends to happen when organizations try to implement the latest management fad. The parable is written by Sarah Sheard of the Software Development Consortium, and you can read it by clicking here.

Patrick provides some wise commentary on this tendency, to which companies large and small seem to fall prey: “There is no such thing as a canned solution — each situation searching for improvement must take a clean look at where they are at, and determine for themselves the constraint that limits their performance, the culture that perpetuates it, and how to use the available tools and techniques to create a new solution for themselves. Otherwise, such efforts will be limited to crippled attempts at catch-up to those who have gone before.”

Unfortunately, this whole dysfunctional school of management thinking is perpetuated by some management consultants, who reason, “This methodology delivered a large ROI at Company A. Company B is very similar to Company B. Therefore, this methodology will also work at Company B.” As Patrick points out, organizations are unique, and it takes a confluence of many factors to make a particular initiative successful at one company — conditions that are devilishly hard to duplicate within another organization, with a different leadership, culture and sets of resources and competencies.

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