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A systems approach in the design of any organization, big, small, for profit, not-for-profit, governmental, whatever, is a good idea. When you systematize the process, you have the opportunity to powerfully replicate what works and potentially avoid what causes inefficiencies. If you want to revisit some of the reasons why a systems approach will help you, you can do that here.

We also talk a lot about how you should change a strategy only when it stops optimally performing.

Systems are the tools to help execute strategy, and the same rules apply. Change them only when they stop optimally performing. Think about changing constantly, but actually change them only when they stop consistently producing the results you’re after.

And this is pretty much true from industry to industry. Consider Murphy’s Law of Computing:

A complex system that does not work is invariably found to have evolved from a simpler system that worked just fine.



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Arguably the smartest business word ever uttered, and adopted into the business vocabulary, is “contingency.”

The dictionary defines contingency as “A future event or circumstance that is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty.”

Doesn’t that apply to just about every aspect of strategy in any sector?

Nothing can be predicted with certainty and nothing is guaranteed. For that matter, nothing is impossible, either. Leaders, then, have to plan accordingly. Hence the importance – and value – of contingency planning. Plan for contingencies, structure for contingencies, embrace contingencies.

And this includes every aspect of how the organization is structured. As Jim Collins stated in How the Mighty Fall,

There is no organizational utopia. All organizational structures have trade-offs, and every type of organization has inefficiencies. We have no evidence from our research that any one structure is ideal in all situations, and no form of reorganization can make risk and peril melt away.”


Contingency planning means considering what could happen, and having potential actions in place if it does.  



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A lot of times we like to lay more blame at the feet of ad agencies than they deserve.  You may recall from how snarky I get around Super Bowl season each year that I’m as guilty of this as anyone. Revisit some of those musings here if you like.

I think it’s worth noting that the advertisement is just designed to spur interest in the offer and get them to try it. The real branding takes place once the customer experiences the value we deliver, so it’s extremely unfair to expect miracles from the ad agency then blame them when the cash register doesn’t ring to suit us.

Consider what Jerry Della Femina said about this in his book, From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor:

There is a great deal of branding that is much better than the product. When that happens, all that the good advertising will do is put you out of business that much faster…All the great advertising in the world can never straighten out the stewardess who wakes up cranky one morning. There is nothing in the world an agency can do about the gas station attendant in One Horse Stand, Nebraska, who has a hangover…”


An experience that doesn’t meet expectations is a broken promise to the customer. And that’s bad. When it’s all said and done, your brand is how your customer perceives your experience. The ad agency can help you tell a great story, but if the story becomes a promise unfulfilled, you may end up worse off than you were before you “advertised.”

Ultimately, it comes down to execution. So put as much thought into what story the customer is going to tell about you after the experience as you put into how you tell your story, if not more. And what your customer is going to say about you is going to come down to how well you actually deliver on what you promise.



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“Customers tend to avoid a restaurant that’s going aswamp in its own sludge.”  McDonald’s Ray Kroc used to tell his franchisees and managers. He demanded that each restaurant, especially the restrooms, be spic and span, and he would totally flip out if he walked into one of his restaurants and found it anything less than spotless. If he visited some of the restaurants I’ve been in lately, especially the restrooms, I think he’d have a fit that would rattle the windows.

Ordinarily I like to be positive in my BLOG, and I tried to credit McDonald’s in the last few entries for how they are making positive strides in terms of their big-picture strategy, but the shoddy way in which so many McDonald’s I’m in is being run is an embarrassment to me as customer, and as a shareholder. There is no excuse for the sloppy appearance of many, if not most, of these restaurants, and it needs to get fixed pronto. I’ll state again that I’m a committed believer in McDonald’s, and I will look forward to bragging on them once it’s done.

If they need a mantra to help spur this action, consider another of Ray’s famous sayings, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.”

On another, very exciting note, there is a movie in the works about the fascinating life of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, starring highly accomplished actor Michael Keaton, and, unless they botch it like they did the Steve Jobs movie, this could be awesome! Details to follow.

Look after the customers and the business will take care of itself.” – Ray Kroc





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