November 17, 2008

It is said that success is the biggest cause of failure. It may sound contradictory but is true. Once an organization succeeds at anything, slowly and gradually it tends to avoid doing things that made it a success in the first place. With success comes a feeling on invincibility followed by arrogance. Success, many a time, blinds the organization to the what made them a successful organization. As a result, they gravitate towards unnecessary complexity and move away from fundamentals. Artificial facade replaces the real self and all troubles find roots.

The only way to avoid this trap is to have a thorough understanding of the set of core values and practices that made an organization a success and make these sacrosanct. DNA of an organism never changes and so is the case with organizations. It makes sense to clearly understand and respect the metabolism of an organization. The moment conflict is created with this metabolic process, everything loses balance and heads for disaster.

There are two things that are most vulnerable and act as a trigger for failure. First is forgetting the fundamentals, and second is forgetting the systems that propped the success story. With success, fundamentals are the first thing to get the axe. With success people start thinking of themselves as experts and slowly start bypassing the fundamentals on which the whole organization was built.

Similarly, behind every success there are some strong and simple systems. They may seem mundane and out of fashion but are often the backbone of success. But in the glitz of success, these get ignored and are gradually replaced by visibly sophisticated but in reality hollow systems. The result is often slow decline of fortune and glory.

Getting successful is relatively easy compared to staying successful forever. Staying glued to success means keeping your feet firmly on ground even though you might be soaring high in the sky. And it requires discipline of sticking to the fundamentals behind the success.