By: Malcolm J. Stubblefield
March 19, 2006
In today’s global business environments management must continuously monitor the high and low points of its internal operational methods. In other words, management must not only develop a strategic management plan, it must ongoingly monitor the plan making modifications when needed and keeping a watchful eye on its competitive advantage. So too must management monitor its competition by keeping abreast of its marketing and strategic strategies and how those strategies will impact the firm’s bottom line (David, 2005). When management falls a sleep, liken to the boiled frog phenomenon where the frog becomes acclimated to the water temperature and slowly goes to sleep and eventually dies as the heat is gradually increased, but in contrast would have jumped out of the pot of water had it been dropped into boiling water because its survival instincts would have been triggered (Renesch, 1999), management can least afford to become immersed in maintaining a business as usual mindset which often leads to insufficient planning and possibly a gradual or total loss of business. When a laissez-faire approach to business planning or operational methods are allowed to evolve, management can become blind to the adverse changes taking place within its own environment and unsuspectingly miss those negative developments taking place externally which, in the long-run, could greatly impact its survival.
A very compelling example of the boiled frog phenomenon can be attributed to a manufacturing special report by Lee Hibbert. In this 2003 report, Hibbert speaks to the causes leading to Britain’s poor productivity levels: regulatory constraints, lack of labor flexibility, the workforce and the Euro have all been cited as the main reasons why output levels lag woefully behind countries such as the US. He goes on to assert that poor management is the primary cause for business losses and, according to new evidence, “no one’s trying hard enough to address the issues.” One of the chief findings in Hibbert’s report points to the fact that “chief executives often do not see productivity improvement as a priority and continue to set very low improvement thresholds for their businesses.” Hence, the question begged for most organizations is “not whether the people in charge are good leaders, but do they measure up as managers?” These findings suggest poor management is a key reason why so many companies are failing to take the ‘highroad’ of high value-added, high investment, high productivity, and high trust industrial relations (Hibbert, 2003).
Indeed, contrasting the above report to the boiled frog phenomenon illustrates how managements’ laissez-faire approaches to vital business concerns can lead to complications within the firm, and thus, have a direct impact on the firms’ bottom-line. When the management takes on a business as usual approach to decision making, strategy development and strategy implementation eventually suffers a slow death just as the frog did when immersed into room temperature water; as the heat was slowing increased it became comfortable and eventually cooked to death. In contrast, if attention to detail is an ongoing and intricate part of the managements’ decision making apparatus, liken to the frog being placed in boiling water, knee jerk reactions would force the firm’s leadership to take notice and implement fundamental changes to its strategies in keeping with a changing environment. It is the responsibility of the chief executive and the firms’ management team to convey a strategic vision to all involved so that everyone has a clear understanding of the firms’ mission and objectives (David, 2005).
David, Fred R. Strategic Management: Concepts and Case. 3rd Ed. Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005.
Hibbert, Lee (2003). Getting tough on time. Professional Engineering, 15 (20), 44, 1.
Renesch, John E. (1999). The Parable of the Boiled Frog. The E-Newsletter for the Awakening Workplace.