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Posted: December 12, 2011

Hunting sacred cows

Sometimes, you've got to back away to see them

Todd Ordal

"We need to make dramatic changes around here, but I won't fire Jim!"
"Long hours are part of our culture. I expect people to check email on the weekend."
"I always attend those meetings. People expect me there!"
"Our customers don't want that."
"Social media isn't important in our market."
"We cannot hire from outside our industry. They just don't get it!"

Mooooo! These are some business leaders' sacred cows that I've heard lowing in the pastures in the past few years. It's great to have tradition and common practices, but only if they serve a purpose.

Let's go hunt some cows! Our weapon? The question. Here are some examples:

"... won't fire Jim!"
-How much profit will you forgo to keep Jim in his role?
-How many people will you let quit to keep Jim in his role?
-When you move to another division or company, how do you think the next president will respond to Jim?

"... always attend those meetings."
-What's the purpose of the meeting?
-What value do you bring to the meeting?
-As CEO, do you think you facilitate or inhibit honest conversation in that meeting?
-If you had three extra hours a week, what would be the most valuable thing you could do for the company?

"... they just don't get it!"
-What are you missing by hiring exclusively from your industry?
-Do you think the record industry might've said the same thing before Napster® and iTunes®?
-Exactly what skills does one need to succeed here?

It's necessary to cull sacred cows from the herd occasionally. The funny thing is that they're often invisible when you're standing right next to them. They still eat your hay and crap in your field, but you don't know they're there. Back up and view the field from a distance, and you might get a good look at them!
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Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at http://www.appliedstrategy.info,  303-527-0417 or todd@appliedstrategy.info

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Readers Respond

Thanks TC! No plans to stop consulting and try humor.... By Todd Ordal on 2011 12 15
Todd, I think you know I have the deepest respect for your strategic advice, but I think your sense of humor even exceeds your strategic talents! "They still eat your hay and crap in your field ..." Love it - very Dilbertish! By TC North on 2011 12 14
Thanks Liz. I believe that misplaced sense of loyalty and "nice" people cause this. Better to be kind than nice and address the issue! By Todd Ordal on 2011 12 12
Great article Todd. I see this all the time on sales teams. Keeping the worst performers because a long time ago they used to be "good" performers. Wasting money hoping they'll get back in the groove and keeping them in a position they can no longer play, winds up costing someone else their job. By liz wendling on 2011 12 12

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