When The Going Gets Tough...Why Not Do The Unthinkable? ...Quit!

"Winners Never Quit...And Quitters Never Win."

Everybody Knows That...Right? Maybe Not!

Let's start with a familiar scenario:

You're off to the beach for your annual planning conference with your key people. While you're there, you review the year. You identify "lessons learned" from your collective mistakes or failures. You all excitedly agree to bold, challenging, and (hopefully) achievable goals for the next 12 months. And it all winds it up with a great afternoon of golf. Sound familiar? Good.

What happens next?

Things go great for a couple of weeks or even a couple of months! Progress is made. Objectives are met. Two or three goals are actually achieved ahead of schedule. With a little luck you'll maintain momentum for several months, and actually accomplish about 80% of your targets for the year.

Then something "slips." Perhaps an important step turns out not to be possible after all. Sales aren't quite what you expected. Or a key manager...who's critical if you've going to achieve a particular goal...accepts an incredible offer from a competitor. You get the idea...you've been there.

All of a sudden, the excitement dies and it becomes work!

The rate of progress slows dramatically. More of your attention is required if you're actually going to achieve the plan. You begin to work longer hours. People become discouraged, and begin to grumble about "unrealistic demands or expectations." Getting from the 80% you've already accomplished to 81 or 82% takes almost as long...and just as much energy...as it took to get all of the first 80%!

This is a very disheartening and frustrating moment for many managers. Confident leaders, however, have a different response...

They consider quitting!

That's right. They ask if it's time to stop...declare victory...and head back to the beach to create a new 100%!

I can hear you now. "Are you nuts? Quit just because we hit a couple of snags? Don't you know, if you're not committed to achieving your goals, you're doomed to failure?"

You may be right. Your timing could be off. The problem might be minor. Success could just be "over the next hill." But maybe it isn't worth the struggle to find out! No matter what, you've nothing to loose by considering another possibility.

Here's an alternative.

Don't forget, in your frustration, that you've achieved a lot: in this case, 80% of what you intended to do this year. That's already in place. You don't loose it...or have to give it up.

But it's become clear that progress beyond this point is going to be slow and, perhaps, painful. You're really going to have to grind it out...with much less "momentum" than you had. Is that really worth the effort? Instead, you could...

Change the game!

That's right...start a whole new 100%. After all, where did the original goals and objectives come from? You and your team made them up! What on earth says they were right when you created them?

As it is, you've accomplished miracles!

You've actually achieved 80% of what you set out to do...in less time than you probably anticipated.

Take those great results and go to a new level!

Look at the illustration to see what I mean. Let's assume you reach the point of 80% accomplishment after only six months. One option would be to "buckle down" and "grind it out." But what would happen if you didn't?

You have the opportunity to start over...with a fresh surge of momentum ...that could actually allow you to accomplish 160%...or even more...in the same amount of time, and with the same energy, you expected to invest to produce the desired 100%!

Why miss the opportunity?

"Yeah, right, Dick," you're saying. "Nice idea, but tell me just one case where some company's done it!" Here are a couple of examples.

In the late 1960's Mitsubishi was one of the world's leading producers of supertankers...those enormous ships that carry oil from the Middle East to the rest of the world. At the time, like any well-run company, they had plans, goals, objectives...a clear 100% they were going for. Then it began to get tough.

They also had some formidable competitors. And they realized there was a limit to how many supertankers the world would ever need! They had lots of facilities and a very skilled work force, so they might have been able to "hunker down" and take more than their share of a dwindling market. But they didn't.

Instead, they stopped making supertankers...but retained and retrained their work force... and began producing the cars and electronics equipment we know Mitsubishi for today. In short, although they were probably the best in the world at what they did, they virtually stopped doing that, and created several new 100%s!

Or how about Apple Computer. Several years ago they created a computer, known as the "Lisa." Although they sold some, it was not very successful commercially.

They had a lot of very talented people working on the "Lisa," so they could have spent a lot of time and energy perfecting it. But they didn't. Instead they created a new 100%. Today that new 100% is known as the Macintosh!

Then there's the regional fast food chain that was steadily loosing market share to large national competitors. In the year since they created a new 100%...they're now a restaurant, rather than a "fast food," company...they've opened two new full service restaurants, one new fast food concept, and added three new outlets to their existing chain! Oh, yes...they've also increased their sales over last year in the fast food units an average of 13%! Not bad for a company concerned about it's survival just a few months ago!

Granted, these examples are fairly large, company-altering, new 100%s. But as a confident leader, you can create new 100%s on a smaller scale as often as you need them...for projects ...for work groups who are stagnant...for goals that aren't being fulfilled.

Don't beat your head against the wall! You've got skilled, talented, committed people who have proved that they can accomplish more than you expected in much shorter period of time.

Take advantage of that!

When your business outruns the momentum and excitement your vision, goals, or objectives have created...and success comes at much greater cost than before...consider the unlikely...quit! Stop doing what's no longer working, and create a new 100%! Everyone will win.

© 1995 by Dick Barnett, Barnett & Kutz, Inc.