By Prof. Vicente Falconi, FALCONI’s Founding Partner
“Either we expel from us the Soul of Defeat or it is not even worth competing”
The profession of business consultant is interesting. Everyday we learn more. I have learned that behavior is a result of attitude. One of the things that grab my attention the most is the variety of behaviors people present and how this can affect, in such a dramatic way, the performance of an organization.
A company, our customer, has several plants in Brazil (one of them in Bahia) and abroad. This one time, the President, after visiting several companies in Europe, Japan, and in the USA came back with the idea of challenging his Managers with a very difficult goal, to be accomplished within one year (this goal would be equivalent to a waste level 20 times lower then the existing one). Then a huge campaign was launched and consultants from FALCONI Consultants for Results were made available as resources to the Managers.
It was a general discomfort. Each Manager had their own explanation on the causes for the impossibility of achieving such results. The months would go by and the discomfort continued, just like the negative explanations, which were more and more developed. This is the Soul of Defeat Nelson Rodrigues spoke about. The Soul of Defeat is an attitude from where resistant and negative behaviors rise. I have seen people using sophisticated resources, at times, to explain the impossibility of doing things; if the same resources were used to reach targets and to promote changes, the results would be brilliant! Other people do not even present arguments, they just hide and undermine the plan through inaction.
While people were talking about the impossibility of reaching that target, the Manager at the plant in Bahia would work with optimism and confidence. Someone once said that faith is the absence of doubts. It seemed to me that Manager had a lot of faith. Then exciting results started to be seen at the Bahia plant. Each month the plant would beat new records of product quality and the President’s target started to be seen in the horizon. Recently, as expected, the target was met in Bahia!
Life teaches us! Right in Bahia, which is wrongly seen as a place where people do not like working too hard.
Unfortunately, not all attitudes are like that. There is a type of attitude which I call the “Ostrich Attitude”, common to people who have the Soul of Defeat, many people are scared to see the problems they have! For example, we have at FALCONI Consultants for Results a product called Diagnostics Operating Performance , whose application process at the companies has attracted my attention. This product, which we learned with Toyota technicians from Japan, aims at identifying waste problems in the several business processes (gaps) and it is fundamental for increasing productivity and reducing costs.
This product has been causing a certain wear in a few companies, mainly in middle management, showing us, in a very clear way, a pathological behavior that has restricted the development of many organizations. However, the application of this product, in dozens of Brazilian companies, has been showing opportunities of gain in the order of 8% of the net operational revenue! This is a true fortune and has changed the life of several organizations, just by thinking that, in general, the net outcome of healthy companies is around 10% of the net operation revenue. In companies where the product was applied, always under the command a strong leader who assumed the “fight”, the improved results begin to appear soon after and, as expected, those same people who previously resisted present themselves as heroes as soon as the results are achieved!
From that on, they consider themselves to be the best in the world and again, start to resist to any other forms of change.
Abraham H. Maslow, in his book “Motivation and Personality”, states his belief that those behaviors originate in childhood and are very difficult to change. This author believes that these people have an attitude of fear of the world and dread before any change in their routine, even if this leads them to death. Indeed, I have seen companies on the verge of bankruptcy rejecting changes until the point when the situation becomes irreversible. Interestingly, they prefer to see the ship sinking to changing their routine. On the other hand, Maslow believes that the agents of change, anywhere in the world, originate in our early days. They are people that for the way they were raised they are confident in life and they have the Soul of the Victory.
The daily clash with several types of people, in the different types of organizations, have shown us that Maslow was right. If the company does not have responsibly fearless people who want to take responsibility for change, it is highly unlikely that changes will occur.
There must be people who have the intimate satisfaction which comes from excellence. The major challenge faced by Human Resources and the companies’ leadership is to locate these people, prepare them and place them in senior positions. It is not enough to know all methods and modern management techniques; if we cannot do this with agility and accuracy, we are certainly reducing the speed of change and the adjustment of organizations to the needs of today.