Sunday, June 8, 2008

What Our Business Is, Will Be, and Should Be

What is your business?  What will it be?  What should it be? In The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management, Peter F. Drucker writes about asking what your business is, will be, and should be to avoid spending your energy defending yesterday and instead, spend your energy exploiting today and the future.  

What Should Your Business Be
Drucker writes that you should aim to figure out how to modify, extend and develop your business:

What will our business be?  Aims at adaption to anticipated changes.  It aims at modifying, extending, and developing the existing, ongoing business.  But there is need also to ask, What should our business be?  What opportunities are opening up or can be created to fulfill the purpose and mission of the business by making it into a different business?  Businesses that fail to ask this question are likely to miss their major opportunity.

Systematically Abandon the Old
Drucker writes that you should adjust for changes in society, economy, and market as well as respond to innovation:

Next to changes in society, economy, and market as factors demanding consideration in answering the question What should our business be? comes, of course, innovation, one’s own and that of others.  Just as important as the decision on what new and different things to do is planned, systematic abandonment of the old that no longer fits the purpose and mission of the business, no longer conveys satisfaction to the customer or customers, no longer makes a superior contribution.

Exploit Today and Work on Making Tomorrow
Drucker writes that you should systematically analyze what your business is and what it should be to survive and thrive:

An essential step in deciding what our business is, what it will be, and what it should be is, therefore, systematic analysis of all existing products, services, processes, markets, end users, and distribution channels.  Are they still viable?  And are they likely to remain viable?  Do they still give value to the customer?  And they are likely to do so tomorrow?  Do they still fit the realities of population and markets, of technology and economy?  And if not, how can we best abandon them – or at least stop pouring in further resources and efforts?  Unless these questions are being asked seriously and systematically, and unless managements are willing to act on the answers to them, the best definition of “what our business is, will be, and should be,” will remain a pious platitude.  Energy will be used up in defending yesterday.  No one will have the time, resources or will to work on exploiting today, let alone to work on making tomorrow.

Purpose and Mission Enable Objectives, Strategies, and Focus
Drucker writes that defining the purpose of your business is the key to managing a business:

Defining the purpose and the mission of the business is difficult, painful and risky.  But it alone enables a business to set objectives, to develop strategies, to concentrate its resources, and to go to work.  It alone enables a business to be managed for performance.

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Ask what your business should be.
  • Systematically abandon what no longer adds value.
  • Don't waste energy defending yesterday.
  • Exploit today and tomorrow through systematic analysis.
  • Systematically analyze existing products, services, processes, markets, end users and distribution channels.
  • Defining your business's purpose and mission enable you to set objectives, develop strategies, and concentrate resources.

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Barbara Swafford said...

Hi J.D.

I agree with the "abandon what no longer adds value. Don't waste energy defending yesterday".

It's easy to say "remember when", but wasting our time thinking about the good ole days, only delays us from moving forward.

J.D. Meier said...

Hey Barbara

I've been doing a bit of "re-engineering" lately. I've been surprised by how much of a delta there can be between "what used to work well" and "what would be the best focus going forward"? I know things change, and yet sometimes it's so gradual that I can't see it unless I ask the right question and take a new look around.