March 24, 2023

You live in a dysfunctional world when the time you spend solving an obvious problem outweighs the cost of the problem itself. But don’t despair. Most companies are dysfunctional. Most companies live with zombies.

I realize that generalizations like this are offensive. But when you look around your organization, can you honestly say that you solve problems decisively and effectively? Would you admit that the same problems have plagued your company for years, but you just don’t have the funds to deal with them? Can you admit that the bigger the problem, the more you avoid it – especially if friends are part of the problem? Can you admit that the whole “leadership” world is a mess (regardless of how many books you read or how many master classes you take)?

All of these are standard in the course. But that’s the way it is. If you add up all the meetings, drinks, discussions, phone conversations, text messages, workgroups, coffee, off-site, coaching, committees, relationships, dinners, who knows what else you spend on those issues, what you spend The cost greatly exceeds the cost of the problem itself. Is the problem too difficult to solve? Are they beyond human capabilities? of course not. We just refuse to see – or do – the obvious.

but why?


I know you know you’ve had a million conversations over the years with the same people about the same issues. But the problems (and people) remain.Some of them got worse, almost like they were mocking you actually Do something. Is the company simply unable to solve the obvious problem with a simple solution? How could Sears, Kodak, Blockbuster, JC Penny and Nokia miss out on the roaring tide? How can the obvious underperformers keep their jobs when everyone knows they’re underperformers? How can companies be so cranky about their strategic goals? There are many questions.

problem clarity

Let’s look at three “simple” problems that cost endless time, effort, and resources — but remain unsolved. Let’s start with sales. Let’s assume quotas are missed – like a lot. How complicated is this problem? Intractable? mystery? new? Are your competitors — whose sales are climbing — having the same problem?

Let’s look at another one: strategy. Can’t strategize? Does anyone have a good strategy? Why doesn’t your company have a coherent strategy? Why is there no common strategic language? or purpose?

Let’s end with technology. Every company on the planet needs technology to handle whatever they sell or service. Many companies sell the technology itself. Does the company pay enough attention to the nature of its own competitiveness? Do they understand the range of technology available? Is technology voodoo?

Solution Clarity

Let’s revisit three issues: sales, strategy, and technology. Are they really that difficult? I have lived and worked with these companies and other issues many times. I’m often amazed at how obvious solutions are, yet companies are reluctant to follow best practices honed through decades of failure (after all, that’s where best practices come from). Note that the entire consulting industry is based on companies’ unwillingness to solve their own problems – no matter how obvious the problem may be. What did the ancients say? “A consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time and then keeps it.” If you believe this, why are there so many damn people running around your company? It’s all about zombie control.

Let’s start with sales.

Root cause analysis is an easy way to find out the reasons for poor sales. Departments can be assessed. Goals that rise, and those that fall are abandoned. Product readiness can be assessed against competitors: good, bad, better, best, worst. Look in the mirror and invest in emerging industries with good/better/best products against your weakest competitors. Sales cycles across departments can be measured. The performance of sales teams and salespeople can also be measured: weed out laggards, reward high performers, and recruit and train accordingly. Are machines smart enough to kill sales zombies? You bet because the process can be modeled objectively. So what’s the problem? Let’s be honest with ourselves: nuance, explanation, empowerment, delay, fear, friends, caution, and incompetence – these are just a few of the zombie problems that prevent solutions from working, which are the real root cause Where the analysis should focus. We know how to solve sales problems; we just refuse to do it. This is because no one wants to lead the sale of zombies, which is why this particular zombie has over a million lives.

What about strategy? It’s easier than selling. Isn’t it fascinating to read thousands of books and articles on “strategy”? Are there so many books because the questions are too difficult? Do we really need all this “new thinking” about strategy every 10 seconds? Is there so much “new thinking” about strategy? God, no. This is because the company refuses to strategize in any committed way. Why is this happening? Because most companies have no idea who they are, their current and future market, their actual value proposition and how they can grow their market share today, tomorrow and in three to five years – or they’re just too afraid to commit to a particular direction. That’s why companies don’t strategize — or why they do so poorly. It’s too risky to declare goals, ambitions, market space, and competitive advantage. It’s too risky to make smart bets on how you make money today and tomorrow. Not because it’s too hard to do. You’re not gambling on the ranch, just letting yourself, your employees, and stakeholders know about promising competitive outcomes.

technology? Can we accept that all companies today are tech companies in some way? The inability to accept this obvious reality is unbelievable. (Please don’t resist. You know you will die without technology.) So why is technology doing so poorly? Because general business technology principles are completely ignored. Some of these principles include using the business case, funding innovation, a comprehensive commitment to cloud computing, microservices, data lakes, SaaS delivery, governance, emerging technologies (especially AI and machine learning), and process modeling/mining—all of which Not complicated. If you’re still arguing about the cloud, you’re in denial. If you refuse to see the transformative power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, you need to wake up. So why are these principles ignored? Why do so many spectacular tech projects still fail? Here we are again: nuances, friends, explanations, empowerment, delays, caution, fear and incompetence prevent technological solutions from working.

sheriff and terminator

If nuances, friends, explanations, empowerment, delays, caution, fear, and incompetence prevent solutions from working, how should you deal with them? consultant! Consulting Sheriffs and Terminators should be hired to do the hard work before the guys from M&A, LBOs, hedge funds, and PEVCs arrive.This is the real reason God created advisors – not to tell you what time it is – which is usually obvious – but try Let you do the obvious. Advisors offer fair deals to executives who are unwilling or unable to make tough decisions. It’s easier to point your finger elsewhere, isn’t it? The consultant repeats this role year after year. But do they have a secret solution that only they know? Are they smarter than everyone in your company? No, of course not. But they are willing to kill zombies.


Everyone knows that too many problems are zombies. When you look back at your career, how many people should you fire before you (if you ever did)? How many sales, strategy and technical teams should you restructure or remove in response to apparent underperformance? How many problems have you defined too confusingly — or not at all — just to avoid them? Why are you endlessly agonizing over so many obvious solutions? How many zombies are in your life? There are many?

Use advisors the right way. They know things. Here’s what they know about killing zombies:

“Almost all zombie survivors agree that brain-busting is the only sure way to eliminate zombies (although a few rare types of zombies require complete dismemberment).”

But whose brain are we really talking about here?

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