Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How To Ride A Dead Horse

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to the next, says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. In business a “dead horse” could mean a product that is no longer marketable, a process that has outlived its usefulness, or possibly even an employee who was once a valued contributor, but now, for all intents and purposes, is "dead."

Unlike the Dakota Indians, modern businessmen have identified alternatives to simply dismounting a dead horse. Here is a sample of modern alternatives.

1. Buying a stronger whip.
- Perhaps the horse is not really dead. If we merely apply more pressure we can get the results we desire. This idea seldom works.

2. Changing riders.
- Changing leaders is a common solution when the dead horse is a poorly performing department or company. Of course, when the new rider declares that the horse is indeed dead, he is hailed as a visionary.

3. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
- This solution has been popularized in recent years by HR departments whose primary mission is to ensure that the company does not get sued. This solution leads to a large number of dead horses throughout the organization.

4. Hire outside consultants to study the dead horse and find the best way to use it.
- Consultants often produce reams of paper reiterating the fact that the horse is indeed dead. But since they are paid to find ways to properly utilize the dead horse, they always include a series of recommendations that are neither creative, nor useful.

5. Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.
- We’ve all seen companies that literally reorganize all of their dead horses into one area and then wonder why the department underperforms.

6. Declare that a dead horse has lower overhead and therefore performs better.
- You laugh, but I’m guessing that you recognize this solution as one that your company has used.

7. Rewrite the expected performance requirements for horses.
- Another solution popularized by HR. This is generally done under the guise of “being fair” to all of the other dead horses in the organization.

8 Hire a coach for the dead horse.
- Personally I’ve seen this one a number of times. Sometimes they even call me. Here’s the hint that the horse is dead. The call doesn’t come from the dead horse (after all, they can’t talk) but instead comes from the dead horses boss. Luckily, I refuse to work with dead horses.

9. Assign the horse to “special projects”.
- Sometimes these special projects last a few months, but sometimes the dead horses are around for years. But it doesn’t take long for a dead horse to start to stink.

10. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.
- Dead horses still weigh a lot. When a company makes a decision to promote the dead horse to a supervisor they build that weight right into their cost structure.

While this list is not necessarily original, it is nonetheless a too accurate description of how too many organizations handle their “dead horses”. Look around at your organization. Do you have one or more “dead horses” on the org chart? If so, it may be time to heed the wisdom of the Dakota Indians and dismount.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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