I was thinking back the other day about one of the jobs that I did in a previous life. I managed a manufacturing facility that was part of a larger conglomerate. On the company staff was an individual that was HR, trainer, coordinator (kind of filled in a number of blanks in the corporate structure). In some of our long range planning and training sessions, he was fond of saying that one of the biggest problems with American business was their lack of planning. He would say that American businesses would “Ready, fire, aim”, where as the Japenese businesses would “Ready, ready, ready, aim, aim, aim, fire”. The Japenese were (are?) famous for their 99 year strategic plans and how much they studied something before they proceeded.
I really think that he was wrong. What is one of America’s great advantages? We are entrepeneurs!! To quote Bill Murray (from Stripes) “We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. …… But we’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years!”. American entrepreneurs have been changing the world for 200 years. We’re rebels, we’re creative, we’re risk takers, we’re looking for opportunities everywhere we go. All you need to do is go where a crowd is gathered and within a couple of hours someone will be there trying to sell you a hotdog or a neon necklace or a seat cushion.
I think anything that stiffles that opportunistic capitalistic drive in America starts to reduce our world dominance. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a place for planning. What did the Cheshire Cat say to Alice? “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. But, I believe that 5 year plans prevent more progress than they promote. Everyday, well meaning planners and accountants and corporate staffers prevent success from happening to their corporations. So focused on preventing failure that success rarely happens. You don’t want to take a shot in the bow below the water line, but taking a couple of shots in the deck won’t hurt that much.
So, why am I whining? I think that in one way the recent downturn in the economy has been good. It has forced a number of people to look a little harder at what was going on in marketplaces and maybe take a little risk or get a little more creative or get out there with a little more urgency. America needs to maintain it’s aggresive wild west entrepeneurial spirit alive to stay at the front of the world economy. So may I suggest: Fire, aim , fire, ready, fire, aim, fire (rinse and repeat).