“If It Ain’t Broke… Break It!” book reflection #2

The next three chapters begin a healthy discussion about the difference between goals and dreams. The author has a distinct opinion about which is more important, and the roles that goals and dreams should play in the innovative business world. In our ever-changing, fast-food mentality, we want instant gratification, instant recognition, and instant profit. The culture in our companies tend to be based on micro-managing the staff for bottom-line results, they live and die one quarter at a time. Kriegel strongly suggests that dreams need to be the driving factor for a company’s effort, and that goals are secondary. The dream supplies the vision and direction; goals are the action steps towards the dream. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “I Have a Dream” he did not say “I have a strategic plan”. I don’t believe many people would have gotten excited about a goal driven strategic plan. His dream was one of passion that touched people’s hearts.

I have had the opportunity to work for companies on both ends of this spectrum. My forklift career was with a small family owned company that was dream oriented, creative, and innovative. The company had 130 employees and produced roughly $30 million in annual revenue. My experience with this company was very successful and very fun. My dental imaging career was with the largest equipment supplier in the country, publicly traded in the stock market, and over $3 billion in annual revenue. This company was extremely focused on micro-managing, weekly, monthly, quarterly reports comparing forecasts to results, not innovative, not much fun.

The author hits a nerve for me with his response called “Gotta’s”. Things like; I gotta make my quota, I gotta cut costs, I gotta finish this report, you get the idea. If you have the Gotta’s then you are working harder but feel like less is getting accomplished, you feel like you are always behind, it’s all work and no play. You basically have hurry sickness! You are working harder and faster trying to increase your performance. Speed kills quality, creativity, and innovation, we are working as fast as we can in order to move on to the next thing that’s Gotta get done. To combat the Gotta’s, Kriegel says, try easy, slow down and work smart, not harder. He gives an example of the Heinz Foods company and the trap they fell into with a speed-it-up approach to manufacturing. This mindset alienated workers, decreased the quality of the products, and resulted in the company wasting millions of dollars each year. They decided to try easy, and they slowed the production process down. The results were a higher quality product, less waste, happier workers, and increased sales.

Conventional wisdom tells us to” leave well enough alone, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. This author says, “always mess with success”. As leaders, if we don’t mess with success, someone else will. Complacency breeds failure, taking your work for granted and resting on your laurels has killed many companies. Mess with your success or your success with mess with you. Treat your product as if it’s alive and it will stay that way by focusing on the process not the goal.

Reference; “If It Ain’t Broke…Break It!” by
Robert Kriegel and Louis Patler

1 thought on ““If It Ain’t Broke… Break It!” book reflection #2

  1. Devon,
    Great blog! I love the focus on working smarter and using passion to fuel progress and ideas. I agree that larger companies that are focusing more on strategy tend to forget about dreaming big. It’s interesting to me that smaller companies have an easier time thinking big, and larger companies can have narrower vision. However, some corporations get this right. Employees are driven to perform when they feel like what they are doing has an impact, and it’s up to the innovative leaders to create these environments.


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