The Chemistry of Strategy tm Newsletter September 26, 2012

Are you too good for your own good?

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The Senior team was discussing an upcoming courtesy visit with their largest and longest-term client, BigCo. Kate, the CEO, had a warning for her team. "With BigCo's upcoming management change, we are in danger of losing the account."

"How can that be?" asked Jim, the head of production. "For the last few years we have been perfect. BigCo sees zero defects, 100% on-time delivery, and stable prices even in the face of some wild fluctuations in the cost of raw materials. It's taken a decade of continuous improvement to reach this point. No other company could match our mix of quality, quantity, timeliness, and cost."

"Exactly," said Kate. "We've made the production of our client's parts look too easy. If the client believes manufacturing their parts is easy, they are likely to shop around for a dramatically lower price. Because of our quality, we rarely meet with anyone at BigCo except the purchasing agent." Spending time working on problems with a client's engineering and quality staff may not be fun, but it does reinforce just how hard it is to manufacture their parts.

The team identified some immediate actions to take, including getting key BigCo people out to the plant to observe how hard it actually is to make everything look so easy.

Maintaining customer relationships is a performance art. In the entertainment world, it isn't good enough for your act to be perfect; you must communicate a degree of difficulty to the audience. A juggler will drop, or almost drop, a ring. A high-wire artist will hesitate just enough to draw a gasp from the audience. My music teacher used to spend as much time coaching me on the right body language as on mastering my difficult performance pieces. You can't assume that an audience will automatically appreciate how difficult it is to perform well.

Be forewarned that communicating difficulty is not as easy as it sounds. Remember that communicating poorly can be worse that not communicating difficulty at all. For example, it's hard to be taken seriously if you wait until your client starts shopping your part. Push too hard and you risk your client repeating the line from Hamlet:
"The lady doth protest too much, methinks." 

Create a strategic plan with your team

"Management is doing things right,
leadership is doing the right things." -Peter Drucker

The "too good" trap is just one of a myriad of issues that can be identified and dealt with as part of a strategic planning process.

How long have you been saying that you are going to develop your strategic plan, but you haven't yet done so? Why? Perhaps it remains on your to-do list because it feels like a huge, laborious process and you haven't the time to spare to do it. Peak-performing companies have a clearly defined strategic plan…and it doesn't have to take long to create an effective one.

Your executive team costs you over a million dollars a year. Are you fully utilizing them? It's a waste of time and money to create a plan that they don't own and implement.

John W. Myrna

is co-founder of
Myrna Associates Inc

Create and Communicate Your Strategic Plan

John Recommends

Spy the Lie
by Philip Houston

Typically, we’re lied to 10 to 200 times every day. The typical person only detects a third of those lies.

Houston and his other CIA co-authors provide insights on how to improve your ability to recognize more of those lies.

Just be careful, being able to read someone's behavior can lead you to places you'd rather not go.

Speaking Gigs

John loves to share his insights. Email him if you'd like to have him speak at your next meeting.

True or False?

"Less is more."



"We have used Myrna to help us with our strategic planning for over FIVE YEARS. We continue to stay the course."

Rick Werner, President, Independence Tube Corporation


Myrna Associates Inc.
421 Timber Creek Drive, Athens GA 30605-7027

Copyright 2012 Myrna Associates Inc.