How to Stop Your Business Flogging a Dead Horse

16th May 2019Business Coaching

Cartoon of cowboy astride a dead horse

Are you flogging a dead horse?

Business growth is fuelled by innovation, creativity and daring to be different.

But many once great companies are flat lining or have even gone into reverse.

Senior managers cling on to outdated business models, seeking marginal gains from “tried and tested”, but no longer relevant improvement methods.

They reorganise, restructure, rationalise, rebrand and all the while they get nowhere very fast.

These businesses are simply flogging the proverbial dead horse.

Here are 5 signs that your company is flogging a dead horse:

The solution is to dismount and find a fresh horse – i.e. to change the fundamentals of the business.

1. Frequent changes of leadership but with no change of direction or strategy – i.e. changing the rider

2. Emulating industry “best practices”- i.e. studying the horsemanship of those best at riding dead horses

3. An M&A strategy that attempts to grow market share by acquiring failing competitors i.e. harnessing several dead horses together

4. Introducing new KPIs, stretch targets and incentive payments i.e. flogging the dead horse even harder

5. Implementing cost cutting and efficiency measures i.e. no longer feeding the dead horse

The solution is to dismount and find a fresh horse – i.e. to change the fundamentals of the business.

How to stop flogging a dead horse

Vijay Govindarajan’s and Chris Trimble’s HBR article, “The CEO’s Role in Business Model Reinvention” offers a 3 step process to change.

1. Manage the present

2. Selectively abandon the past

3. Create the future

How do you manage the present?

By executing your current business model as well as you possibly can. Unless your model is new, most companies are well versed in managing the present. It is all about delivering as well as possible what drives value today as well as fine tuning for tomorrow.

How do you selectively abandon the past?

For many organisations it can be difficult to let go of tried and tested processes, retire products that continue to sell well or change thinking that has served well in the past. It is tempting to continue down the road of continuous improvement even as the risks of disruption lurk right just around the corner.

Realising that what got you here, won’t take you onto future success is fundamental to reviewing what to abandon from the past to create the future.  

How do you create the future?

It is hard to relinquish familiar working practices and profitable businesses. However, it is essential to free up time and resources to understand and embrace forthcoming changes in markets and technologies that will underpin the next phase of growth.

“Disrupt or be disrupted” is the new mantra. This is prompting new ways of acquiring skills, knowledge and enablers such as partnering with start-ups, universities and technology leaders.

Riding a fresh horse into a new future

It takes bravery to follow the 3-step change process: – To sacrifice some of today’s earnings for a higher revenues in a future that is hard to predict.

One thing that we can safely predict is that 10 years from now some of today’s largest organisation will have ceased to exist in their current form. They’ll have merged or been taken over by their rivals or gone to the wall entirely with their once unassailable but now thoroughly obsolete business models.

With the pace of change ever accelerating now is the time to stop flogging the proverbial dead horse, dismount and ride a fresh horse into a new future.

For more articles on business change, please see our business change blog or head over to the change management resources section of this website