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Breaking the Fad-Failure Cycle

David Straker

-- The pattern of failure -- The four pressures --
-- Breaking the pattern -- And so the cycle repeats --

-- Print friendly one-page --


The four pressures

The Fad-Failure Cycle above shows the four pressures that act on managers in these situations.

Pressure to improve

Business managers are under constant pressure to decrease costs and increase sales in order both to stay in business and to deliver value to demanding shareholders. Competitors provide additional pressure as everyone strives to sell better products and services for lower costs.

Pressure to adopt

When a new approach appears that promises much, it gives hope for potential improvements that relieve the pressure to improve. It also triggers a fear that competitors may also use this approach to gain advantage. The overall approach is a felt pressure to at least try out the new approach.

Pressure to deliver

The cost and expectations of the new approach now is added to the pressure to improve, and the new approach has a limited time in which to succeed. A major problem here is that, by definition, nobody is expert on the new approach. Early successes may be gained, but this is often due more to the initial energy and the interest of early adopters than to a widespread and sustainable understanding of how the new approach should be used.

Pressure to explain

Over the longer term, impatience and lack of expertise leads to various problems and the programme falls into disrepute. Some firms now resort to wasteful blame and recrimination, and the method itself typically falls into disrepute. The pressure to improve does not go away and the cycle begins again.

The Danger Zone

The problem starts in the danger zone in the bottom right corner of Figure 1. Uncertainty about the approach leads to people holding back on their commitment to it. Despite a limited expertise, work ploughs ahead full-steam. The result is too often a self-fulfilling prophecy of limited success and subsequent collapse.

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