“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
– Bill Gates
The process of transitioning your company from Good to Great is like that of a giant flywheel – it begins with a slow turn, which is difficult and sluggish. Over time, the flywheel begins to pick up momentum and becomes easier and easier to turn, and eventually you break through to greatness.
Stage one of this process is Disciplined People, which includes being a Level 5 Leader, and also getting the Right People on the bus. Stage two is Disciplined Thought which means Facing the Brutal Facts, while keeping faith that no matter what you will still prevail, and also identifying and sticking to your Hedgehog Concept – the three circles (What you’re passionate about, what you’re the best at, and what drives your economic engine).
Once stage one and two are firmly established, stage three happens almost naturally. Disciplined Action is made up of a Culture of Discipline, where people are self-motivated and self-disciplined, and able to work in an environment that is free of bureaucratic constraints, while operating with an entrepreneurial spirit that promotes creativity and imagination. The last part of stage three is Technology Accelerators.
Collins puts this last for a reason. No matter how incredible the technology is, if the first two and a half stages aren’t firmly established within your company, it won’t do much for you. This was proven over and over again in all the good-to-great comparison companies he looked at. They had fallen into the “technology trap” of thinking that new technologies would save them from their troubles. Instead, they should have focused on the steps outlined above.
Technology does play a role though. When used correctly (as a compliment to the momentum you’ve already gained on the Flywheel), technology becomes an accelerator of that momentum. As in the Bill Gates quote above, the efficiency is magnified. Collins says the key question about any technology is, “does the technology fit directly with your Hedgehog Concept?” If not, avoid it entirely and refrain from jumping on the bandwagon.
If the technology does fit within your Hedgehog Concept, jump on it! Even if that means being a pioneer in the application of it. Great companies respond to technology with thoughtfulness and creativity, driven by a compulsion to turn unrealized potential into results.
Mediocre companies jump on technology fads within their industries because they are motivated by a fear of being left behind. This is a valid fear, but if you have disciplined people, thought, and action in place – you will be less reactionary and more strategic. You will have the principles in place to know that technology only accelerates your momentum, it doesn’t create it. “Crawl, walk, run,” should always be our approach, especially during times of raid technological change.
“But all things should be done decently and in order.”
– 1 Corinthians 14:40 (ESV)