Business Planning and the ?Bozo? Factor

"Bozo" ? A clown with a forlorn look, always finding negative implications in every activity or event. A person who tries to find a way to prevent you from moving ahead, giving excuses such as "we've always done it this way, or this is not our culture" when presented a new opportunity or challenge. Normally associated with people who are uncomfortable with learning new techniques, processes, or relationships.

Guy Kawasaki from Garage.Com ? a venture capital company, used to have a segment in his presentations called "Don't Let the Bozos Grind You Down." This segment discussed how every organization will have a corps of people who simply try everything in their power to stop innovation, new product and service development, and introduction of anything new into the daily job function. These people are "bozos." If you want to avoid the pain of dealing with bozos in your business planning, you need to develop techniques in identifying and preventing bozos from interfering with potential future activities of your organization or company.

Due diligence on any innovation or change in direction of an organization is a clear requirement ? nobody wants to manage a company like a small dog playing with toys ? chasing everything that looks fun without following through on any action. A manager must rely on staff to provide a good system of checks and balances to manage risk associated with any change.

However, none of us are immune to the effects of a global economy accelerated by use of global telecommunications networks and business process innovations. With very few exceptions, our organizations must move ahead ? offering products and services demanded by a "savvy" consumer market, or run the risk of another company replacing us. Competitive companies are always taking managed risk to innovate and pass your company or organization, offering a better, faster, cheaper, and more modern product. If you lose your place as a market leader due to internal struggles in your attempt to innovate, you will ensure the bozo has successfully accomplished his objectives. If the bozos are successful once, their chances of continuing to hurt your innovation efforts will increase.

Bozos only serve the purpose of dragging down an organization through endless complaints, justifications for refusing change, and comments about the "old days" when "things were better." We have to limit the Bozo-factor in our planning, while ensuring adequate due diligence is maintained. In a worst case bozos will simply refuse to perform tasks associated with new product development and rollout ? sabotaging your efforts to move the company ahead.

Look for the Signs of Bozos in Your Office

Bozos are fairly easy to identify. They are the people who generally use phrases like:

? "Its not my job"

? "I haven't been trained"

? "We've always done it this way"

? "Why should we change?"

? "It won't work"

? "It is impossible"

? "Nobody else is doing it"

? "I haven't enough time to learn a new job or technique"

? and many other similar phrases

The bozo is dangerous in other ways. While you are trying to innovate and move your company ahead in the market, Bozos are diligently trying to "rally" the other employees around their justification for not supporting change. Most employees fully understand if they are not always learning and trying to improve themselves, eventually somebody will replace them ? but the bozo wants to contribute to their potential unemployment situation by dragging them along into a condition where management must either decide to go around them, over them, or in the worst case "through them" to accomplish company or organizational objectives.

If in your business planning you bypass bozos, use good due diligence, study your market conditions, trends, and futures ? you can avoid the bozo factor in business planning. To paraphrase the creed of the French Foreign Legion (March or Die), to survive in the global economy and market place all companies must constantly plan for innovation, providing a product that is better than the competition ? where ever that competition may be. Innovate or die ? through managed risk.

(About the Author ? John Savageau is a managing director at CRG-West, responsible for managing operations and architecture for several of the largest telecommunications interconnect facilities in the US, including One Wilshire in Los Angeles.

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