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Long Term Growth Management: Paradise By the Toyota Dashboard Light?


Last month I commented on the similarity between Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the need for both operational excellence and vision in business: the balance between doing the day job well and at the same time having an eye for the main chance and future profits from growth. In effect operating with Two Hats: operations management and growth management.

If we look at many successful businesses the balance of right brain dominated entrepreneurial creative thinking and left brain controlling, managing, planned thinking is clear to see. Often in organisations we see two different characters at the top of “creative” businesses. The visionary and the deliverer. Examples include Chanel Perfumes, Pixar, Hewlett Packard but there are many more closer to home. Successful designers and entrepreneurs have great operations people at their shoulders – unsuccessful entrepreneurs do not!

It is this balance that helps businesses see and develop new growth, particularly in recessions. But why in recessions? Because in recessions old propositions don’t cut it anymore: customers’ needs change to a new definition of value and new technologies, and new concepts provide an opportunity to meet those changing needs and make money. Mere re-packaging of existing offers can work for a time but often it is radical new ideas born through necessity that generate new innovative markets and sustainable returns.
But it is not good enough just to have two different charismatic leaders at the top of the organisation demonstrating the benefits of balancing vision and operational excellence. To drive sustainable growth the whole organisation needs to keep this balance in perspective throughout. At all levels and in all formal and informal teams the company employees need to manage, respect and enjoy the use of “Two Hats”: operations and growth, left brain and right brain thinking.

And here’s the key: if the organisation does not respect the two different management styles needed, then politics breaks out and the company will not achieve its full potential. Those who predominantly work on the day job of driving operational performance need to respect the need for open inquisitive thinking when defining and developing new business opportunities. And those involved in developing growth through open thinking need to respect the need for greater control and constraint in delivering the company’s revenues and profits as part of the day job. The obvious point is however, that everyone to some extent will be involved in each type of activity. How much and to what extent depends on an individual’s role and their own predisposition to be more right or left brained in their natural thinking style and how they work.

So there we have it. Off the seminal album Bat Out Of Hell, in the great Meat Loaf song, written by Jim Steinman, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”, the girl in response to the pleading of her young male friend desirous of love screams: “I gotta know right you love me? ...will you love me forever?”

In life and in business one night stands and expediency do not produce lasting relationships and growth. Long term love is based on managing mutual respect and enjoyment over years as each partner ages. The young couple that start out together hopefully end up together. But they will be different people having travelled a long way through life as partners. Those who are successful retain the ability to manage, respect and enjoy each other and how they function as a couple. The same is true in businesses that secure long term growth.

It is no surprise that the Global Head of Toyota in speaking of business to the UK automotive sector in 2008 spoke not of the state of the automotive market but of the deep core values in Toyota that drive growth. Toyota is predominantly known for its outstanding delivery of proposition excellence. It is not well known as a generator of wildly innovative new growth. But its success is unparalleled in a mature industry. It is now the Nos 1 car manufacturer in the world and has consistently provided strong operational performance and growth.  Paradise by the Toyota dashboard light? I think not, that would be too short term. Paradise comes from a style of management that allows the team to manage, respect and enjoy both hats: Operational and Growth.

P.S. For lovers of the music of Meatloaf and Jim Steinman, the vinyl record sleeve included a loose leaf page detailing the words and who plays what on each track - for example, Guitar: Todd Rundgren, Drums: Max Weinberg, but the best of all is Lascivious Effects: Jim Steinman!


Andrew Lester

© Andrew Lester all rights reserved August 2009