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Don’t fall prey to business inertia

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Business inertia is often the outcome of the fear, uncertainty and doubt in decision-making by senior executives of an organisation, at a time when strong leadership, self-belief and whole-hearted commitment are required. So what do you do= when faced with this situation and how do you deal with it effectively, without the risk of sending your organisation into a stall in the process?

There is a very simple answer, which has nothing to do with the dynamics of the business, the uncertainties of the markets or the vagaries of trading conditions. The answer lies within the physics of flying.

Organisations, like airplanes, are most at risk of failure, when their momentum is threatened by insufficient height, too much weight and too little acceleration. For insufficient height, read resourcing and funding; for weight, it’s costs and liabilities; and for acceleration, it’s revenue and profitability.

Taken on their own, most organisations are more than capable of re-adjusting to take account of the circumstances they find themselves in. However, put them all together in the wrong sequence and it’s a recipe for an inevitable stall and the tail spin, which so often follows it.

When pilots face a set of circumstances that could potentially lead to the disastrous failure of their aircraft, they will check their height to ensure that they have sufficient altitude and enough time to deal with the problem they are encountering. Next, they will assess their acceleration and airspeed and finally the payload they are carrying to decide whether they need to lose weight and how much. So, do business leaders follow the same example? The first item on their checklist will inevitably be funding and resources. Does their organisation have enough in the tank to deal with the challenges they are faced with? The next item they will address are their costs and liabilities and the last to be tackled are revenue and profitability.

The rationale for doing it in this sequence is wholly understandable. It’s always been done this way because most business managers are focussed primarily on survival and sustainability, as opposed to growth and development. It’s all too easy to focus on growth and development when times are good but when the going gets tough, acceleration of revenue and profitability, like the engines of an airplane, are pretty much assumed and taken for granted. Business managers tend to forget that no focus on acceleration will lead to momentum slowing dangerously until a stall is unavoidable and disaster is inevitable. It may appear to be a risky option but the best way to avoid a stall is to accelerate the aircraft. 

It’s pure physics, you know. Don’t take my word for it; ask any pilot.*Charles Helliwell has been in private practice for more than 20 years, as a behavioural and relationship mentor specialising in facilitating collaborative change based on experiential learning.

He conceived and published the theory of Business Personality Audits, which directly relates the productivity of an organisation to the differential between the internal and external personalities it projects through the behaviour of its workforce.

He works as a writer, facilitator, speaker, trainer, coach and mentor for a number of multinational organisations.

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