A City of Harare refuse truck passed me by as I was getting to my office this morning. Some workers were precariously hanging at the back of the truck. Luckily there were putting on overalls and gloves, because the truck was so dirty. But then it had to be, because its job is to carry refuse.
Later on I heard a wailing sound. I looked down and saw two fire brigade trucks speeding by. One thing I noticed is how clean the trucks were.
“Why are the trucks so clean?” I asked myself. After all, a clean fire truck isn’t a lot better at putting out fires than a smudged one.
The answer: Because when there is no fire, the firemen wait for the siren to ring. And while they’re waiting, they clean the trucks.
Most organizations are staffed with people waiting for the alarm to ring. Instead of going out to the community and working to prevent new fires, the mind-set is that firemen are working to put out the fires that have started.
Hotel desk clerks don’t write letters or make calls to generate new business—they stand at the desk waiting for business to arrive.
The structure of most organizations (and most schools and colleges!) supports this. It’s about cleaning your plate, finishing your assignments and following instructions. Initiative is hard to measure, direct and reward.
In fast-changing markets, clean fire trucks show attention to detail but rarely lead to growth and success.
What a great way to describe a stuck but busy organization:“Their fire trucks are so clean!”
Everyone agrees that our economy is in the doldrums, with tight liquidity and suppressed demanding pulling down profitability for most businesses. In response, some businesses across most sectors are changing their operating models to improve viability. Of particular note are the numerous instances of both backward and forward integration whereby wholesalers introduce retail offerings (Mahomed Mussa), retailers start to offer wholesale services (OK Mart, TM Mega Mart) and sellers of basic commodities invest in manufacturing assets, (Pro Brands), all in an effort to take a greater share of the value chain.
Seriously then, you also need to re-examine your business model as an SME owner or manager, otherwise your neat little business will be left behind. Don’t waste time cleaning up the fire-truck, go out there and look for opportunities. Network, read and talk to other entrepreneurs to stay abreast of the fast changing trends in our economy.
Have a pleasant day