Ohmae's Key success factors LO11739

Myers, Kent (myers@carsoninc.com)
Wed, 8 Jan 1997 11:40:59 -0500

Replying to LO11715 --

also to LO11706

The concept of "key factor" formalizes a thinking error. Scott explains
that, in practice, he avoids the error, but why make it in the first

I think there is some deep emotional appeal. I don't feel it, but here is
how I imagine it works. Masterful leaders have simple explanations for
their actions that cut to the point. Often the simplicity is a post hoc
reconstruction, as in "Gerstener knew that lifetime employment was the
key, and now IBM is back." Or the simplicity is really in the sales
rhetoric rather than the analysis, as in "Perestroika". But I'll admit
that, if you really understand the situation, your actions will usually
have simple explanations. The error is to simplify at the beginning, to
get the immediate emotional charge of being masterful. It's like taking
cocaine, rather than earning a medal.

I see this all the time with meetingware. The group creates a list, and
everybody is dying to use the prioritization tools. A favorite is to
prioritize a list of problems. Consider how abusrd this would be if your
doctors did it. They come up with three problems: fever, aches, runny
nose. They are decision makers, and they decide that fever has priority.
They show their knowledge by explaining that fever can kill you, while the
other problems can't. Now that they have only one problem to deal with,
they recommend the best medicine for reducing fever. Time is up and they
walk away, convinced that something was accomplished. After all,
"everybody was in the room", they used "technique" to get "consensus", and
there was "action" rather than aimless discussion.

I agree that a short list of factors is useful. I don't think they should
be "key" factors. Instead, what they should be is what Kaplan calls a
"balanced scorecard". A "holistic scan" would be hard to sell, but
everybody knows about scorecards and how to use them. If you were a
coach, and if you ignored the scorecard and lingered on a "key" such as
batting average, you would quickly lose your job.

I agree that it is best to find an action you can focus on, and that some
simple actions have great results. But my point is that anything that is
likely to be a "key success factor" is unlikely to have a direct link to
the effective, simple action. In the doctor example, none of the doctors
is going to put "deficiency of penicillin" on the problem list, unless he
is being ironic and is upset that systemic diagnosis is being bypassed.

Kent Myers myersk@us.net
Alexandria, VA


"Myers, Kent" <myers@carsoninc.com>

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