“Organizational Inertia” is the tendency of a mature organization to continue on its trajectory. This inertia can be described as being made up of two elements – resource rigidity and routine rigidity. Resource rigidity stems from an unwillingness to invest, while routine rigidity stems from an inability to change the patterns and logic that underlie those investments. Resource rigidity relates to the motivation to respond, routine rigidity to the structure of that response.
Gilbert, 2005, 741-743
Let me first say I’ve always been a contrarian (much to my mom’s dismay), I was one of those kids who annoyed adults by constantly saying “WHY”…..for some reason I haven’t been able to shake that part of my personality. So, when I came across a recent challenge in getting a potential client who is just in their research/development stage to start the process of building their commercial infrastructure, I was met with a great deal of resistance. At first, as all entrepreneurs do whether admit tingly or not I took it personally as I said to myself “They don’t think I have the competency to help them do this”, and then after the brief pity party and the ole “It’s just business” speech to myself I realized the company made the best decision not diving into another strategy before completing “Plan A”. This was an “Ego Check” for me and also understanding because a business large or small/mature or startup decides to “stay in its lane” and not leap forward because it’s popular, is in no way a stupid decision……it’s a prudent “Business Inertia” decision. Before sitting down and scribing this post I did some research on “Organizational Inertia” and much like the definition above most of the information I found was negative against inertia practices. Being fully transparent I agreed with most of what I read regarding companies who in many cases purposely stand rigid to any change regardless if that change is guaranteed to provide a favorable outcome. Most instances you find “FEAR” to be the culprit and reasons why a company ices themselves in this “Organizational Inertia” freezer box. Companies whose nature is to be risk averse and whether that comes from a bad business experience or just the personality of its leadership, I’m not sure you can say that’s entirely incompetent thinking. When you read all of the intellectual property that’s out there on “Business Inertia” and how it can kill a corporation, I just think it’s overstated and jumps into un-contextual generalizations. I don’t agree however with corporations who are so rigid in their thinking and routinely avoid common sense growth/change approaches that will keep their business afloat, the old “We’ve always done it this way” strategy doesn’t have a prosperous future. On the other hand there are those wannabe “Trailblazing” outfits where flexibility and risk are championed……but “FOCUS” is typically in peril.
Let’s talk about “FOCUS”, inertia’s sometimes best friend. “FOCUS” definitely has its plusses especially when it comes to sticking with your “Core Values” and “Culture”. Companies who don’t forget where they come from appear to thrive versus those companies who have a “Going Out Of Business” sign posted once a month. CNBC noted earlier in the year that there are 5 companies some we know very well may not survive past 2014, here’s the list:
- Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
- Sears Holdings
- Radio Shack
- My Space
Out of the list of 5 the one that caught my attention was Radio Shack. I have been a Radio Shack fan since my early years so truthfully seeing them make the potential “Business Guillotine” bothered me somewhat. However, I have to be honest and ask the question “What is Radio Shack really good at”? What do you think they’re good at? That’s my point. In all these years I haven’t totally been clear if they are an electronics retailer, remote motor car store, cell phone outlet, wiring/cable hardware store…..you get my message. I absolutely understand the “keeping up with the joneses” philosophy when you have to compete with a powerhouse like Best Buy, but in this instance I think putting a tent down and camping on what you’re good at would have been the best strategy. In the Radio Shack example, “Business Inertia” could have led to positive growth and kept them in business competitively. Competition certainly can bring out the best competencies but often times those competencies are delivered sporadically, un-strategic…..and yes UNFOCUSED. When you look at a company like APPLE that has been extraordinarily successful the immediate response is to say they do not live by the “Business Inertia” model, and I could understand that perception since it seems like they have their paws in so many markets. However, surprisingly enough they’ve used “Business Inertia” to their advantage by “FOCUSING” on the PC/CELLPHONE markets and exploiting those spaces to increase their “Brand Reputation”…..thus becoming “GOD’s” of “Customer-Focused Innovation”.
So, go ahead and jump on the bandwagon and say “NO” to “Business Inertia” but keep this in mind, there are always other sides to the “Business Story” and sometimes NOT “going for it” may be the best business strategy you’ll ever make!
“BUSINESS INERTIA” can lead to “BUSINESS GROWTH”!
Checkout my presentation on “BRAND A INERTIA”! : http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/brand-a-inertia-presentation1
AH2 & Beyond Consulting