Corporate Viagra
Do You Need It?  Can You Get It?  And Is It Fun?
by Tom FitzGerald
 

CORPORATE IMPOTENCE
CORPORATE VIAGRA
IN A COMPANY LONG AGO
IN  A  BOARDROOM  FAR  AWAY

"FLACCID!" The only female board member snapped out suddenly. "LIMP!!"  The chairman choked off his presentation mid-word, his eyes bulging, his throat constricting into a gurgle. The others froze, looking straight ahead, catching no one's eye.

"NOT UP TO IT ANYMORE!" Louder now. She slammed the table with her fist. Who was she referring to? Who was she talking to? Someone here?  At her age ...?  Who would ...?  Alice was glaring right at the chairman.  Surely not Alice and Harry!

"IMPOTENT!" Her face, normally pale, was now flushed. A shank of her steel grey bun had sprung high on her head, impelled by her vigor. She was pointing right at him. Jab! Jab! Jab!  "IMPOTENT! LIMP! FLACCID!" A ghastly smile flickered across his numb face. He couldn't seem to control his mouth. Words were squeezing from his lips. "Well! ... he! ... ah! ...  he! ... Alice ... well, ah ... none of us, hm ... are getting any ah ... younger ... er, ah ..."

"PSCHA!" Disgust in her voice. They all cringed. Is there such a word? The chairman thought errantly, his mind still refusing to deal with this.  The new director shuffled through his papers, looking for a place to hide. "DON'T FLATTER YOURSELF!", she hissed.  She was now impaling the report on the table with that sharp finger. They could see the yellow cover dent. Stab! Stab! Stab!  "I'M TALKING ABOUT THE  COMPANY!   She grew quieter for a moment, breathing sharply through her nose, pushing her rampant grey hair back into place. "THE COMPANY!  ITíS IMPOTENT! 

"Its a long time since I've seen any excitement over there. Doesn't anyone want to penetrate a new market? God knows, this thing", she viciously stabbed the report again, "This thing, tells me there is a lot of market out there. And, let me tell YOU something, there's a lot of stiff competition out there doing something about it."  Now she grew quiet, "Harry! this company is acting like itís in late middle age.  Itís only thirty seven years old and ... and it can't hack it any more. Like some ..." She pointedly refrained from finishing the rest of that sentence. The chairman steadfastly ignored a choking sound from somewhere to his left. 

"If we don't DO something soon, itís going to start dying. And the economy just can't go on like this either." She paused a while. "What it needs, what it really needs", she was picking up speed again, "What the company really needs is a strong dose of  VIAGRA! 

"Everything you said tells me that. DOESN'T IT?" She suddenly glared at the CFO. "The company is alive ... sort of! Itís profitable... but not much! Itís growing... yes!  But this," she stabbed the report again, "this tells me itís losing market share. New products are taking forever to come out. And then they're copies and me-toos. And the managers walk around as if they are ordained to conduct some kind of religious ceremony instead of RUN  the company. Even the young ones act like seminarians. For God's sake!" She was getting hot again. "Where's the drive? Where's the OOMPH? Where's the Fun?

Corporate impotence

All across the country, every month, directors and managers think such thoughts -  privately, quietly, seldom voicing them and then only one-on-one. When they do, they use other images, other analogies, and never tell the CEO. The very person who should be the first to know, is the last to be told.

But problems of drooping enthusiasm, softening drives, problems of corporate impotence, do exist. One way or another they must be addressed. As the likelihood of economic downturn grows, the urgency grows.

An extraordinary similarity exists between corporate and human male potency. Both are functions of psychology, vigor, energy, money, health, opportunity and age. For both man and company, an early sign of sickness, depression, fear or age is impotence - partial, intermittent or persistent. 

In both cases, impotence is seldom discussed. In males, shame and embarrassment are often at the root of its denial, but it is mostly ignored. Though the recent advent of Viagra is causing the condition in males to be raised more often, it is still a source of embarrassment.

In Corporate Impotence, the reason is blindness. This disorder has not been given widespread recognition or a formal name, and the condition is not noticed, even by those most effected. Companies, after all, seldom have partners who complain forcefully. Clients seldom do; they go elsewhere for service.

Once Corporate Impotence becomes late stage, it will be noticed. But by then, the pathology is well advanced and impotence is overshadowed by other corporate diseases that are recognizable and have names. By the time everyone sees them, it is too late. 

Corporate Impotence, especially the early stage, is the  first  indicator of deep-lying problems. Untreated problems will grow and fester in the darkness -  until the economy turns down, until the market or the industry or technology changes, until pain brings them into the light.

Corporate Impotence has many symptoms, many expressions and many degrees of pathology. Though ineffectiveness, the inability to make things happen, to cause events to take place in the company and the marketplace, is at itís core. 

In the early stages, symptoms can be intermittent, partial, subtle and usually explained away as something else. But, as the condition progresses the symptoms will become intense, constant and quiet -  unmistakable, and finally Ö inexcusable.
 
Early stage indicators

Knowing What To Do But Reluctance 
Lack Of Enthusiasm
Lack Of Urgency 
Lack Of Energy 
Worry
Poor Execution.
Lack Of Innovation
Reluctance To Argue 
Slow Decision Making 
Tolerance Of Mediocrity. 
Slowness To Adapt. 
Complacency 
Poor Profitability

Late stage indicators

No Longer Knowing What To Do
Apathy
Weariness
Paralysis
Fear
Persistent Quality Problems
Resistance To Anything New
Backstabbing
Paralysis or Capricious Decision Making
Tolerance Of Incompetence
Rigidity
Denial And Terror
Loss

A few of the indicators/symptoms that we see quite often are shown above.  (To get a longer list just ask a middle manager casually what he thinks are the symptoms of organizational ineffectiveness.) The presence of any or even all of the early-stage indicators is not definitive: Severity, duration and a host of other factors play a role.  Sooner or later the early indicators turn into late stage symptoms. And just one can be fatal. But we never find just one. 

In our work, we use two instruments to take the guesswork out of early stage diagnosis.  One is a short questionnaire for senior managers to establish probable cause and to make a preliminary diagnosis. The other, The Corporate Vitality Profile (CVP) is quite extensive. It addresses all the factors we mentioned above, and many others - some obvious, some subtle - all unique predictors/precursors of corporate impotence.

Every company has a unique vitality profile. Of the hundred plus factors the CVP addresses, we can never predict which will apply to any one company. But if early stage impotence is there, the company will show at least thirty symptoms. This CVP questionnaire has proven to be much more practical and cost effective then the most extensive interviewing.

We use so comprehensive an instrument as the CVP primarily to enable management to prove conclusively to itself that the problem exists. Managements, like individuals, can be unconsciously reluctant, even unwilling, to face uncomfortable and embarrassing realities unless there is overwhelming evidence, and unless someone courageously holds the mirror. We also use the comprehensive CVP to define clearly and explicitly the underlying causes so that clear and explicit corrective actions will be taken.

The differences between human impotence and corporate impotence, between Viagra and Corporate Viagra, are profound. Viagra deals with the human body; Corporate Viagra deals with the spirit of the company. 

In males, Viagra works without improving the underlying physical conditions. It is a temporary fix. The problems continue to exist.  The corporate equivalent works by healing the organization at a deep and central level. And its effect is not temporary; it is long term.

In men, age is always the limiting factor and it plays an ever more dominant role. But companies have an advantage that individuals do not have: they can be immortal. Corporate Viagra works by renewing, revitalizing companies. Restoring them to younger, healthier, more entrepreneurial, more aggressive, more creative, more potent states.  It is quick. Results show in days. And it is this renewal and regeneration that causes the surge in effectiveness and performance.

So, what is this Corporate Viagra? It is a brief, intense process that is led by the CEO. This process - in polite company we call it the Corporate Renewal Process - triggers an instinctive renewal response that is inherent in all organizations.

It has been known for eighty years or more that companies which ďturnaroundĒ from the brink of disaster, almost always under new managements, undergo this innate renewal, revitalization response. They return to a younger more vibrant state. And it shows almost immediately on their bottom lines. 

What is not nearly so well known, is that healthy, untroubled units within these companies, units which keep their managements, also achieve the same inherent response, experience the same increase of potency and achieve the same, often better, profit surges. The do this from a position of strength rather than weakness, from ambition rather than desperation. 

It was our observation and research into this phenomenon that led us to develop the Corporate Renewal Process. Simply put, these businesses had been touched and transformed at some fundamental level. Their very spirit, essential core had been renewed and re-ignited. And it was the renewed spirit that caused everything else to happen - almost effortlessly.

This is not the place for a philosophic discussion on the existence of the corporate spirit. Just for now, let us accept the fact that: A company has a psyche, a spirit, an essential core; this spirit resides mostly in the relationships between the managers and the teams; relationships, under the right conditions can change easily; a change in the spirit causes a change in the performance of the company. Many intuitive leaders feel these to be axiomatic and behave accordingly.

Traditionally, corporate transformations (that retain existing managements) have relied on massive process and structural reengineering to work. They cost a great deal in time and effort, take a long time and are successful only thirty percent of the time. But Corporate Viagra, working directly with the spirit of the company, has no such limitations. It has a success rate much closer to a hundred percent. 

For practical purposes, it does not matter what constitutes the corporate spirit or where it is. What matters is that it can be addressed directly. Put the CEO and the senior managers in a room and the spirit of the company is there. If this sounds mystical, hang in there. It may sound like magic and it may work like magic, but it is profoundly practical. 

Also, for the skeptical among our readers, the senior managers are those most responsible for conditions as they are; they will have to change first in any corporate transformation, however easy. People may find it hard to change themselves. But, under the right conditions, relationships between people can change very easily. Change relationships at a deep level and the spirit changes. 

The Corporate Renewal Process, because it triggers an instinctive response within a company, is profoundly simple. It is led by the CEO/managing officer. It is driven by management. It is facilitated by a professional business catalyst who guides the process and triggers the changes.   Using the renewal process, the CEO causes the essential core of the company to address frontally - and to reject cathartically  - the traits within that are causing the problems and to generate in their place the corporate attributes that are needed for corporate potency.

To begin the Corporate Renewal Process, only one person needs to needs to see and acknowledge the existence of corporate ineffectiveness and determine to begin. That is the CEO or managing officer. Others may see the need but unless the CEO commits nothing can happen. He must have the courage to lead his people, to start the process. In fact, middle managers, who are first to see and complain (to each other) of the problem, are the most reluctant to take the medicine. And, in a real sense, it is their medicine. 

The renewal process has just seven steps, really seven transitions. With the right intent and the right attitude on the part of the CEO, these transitions happen by themselves. 

1) The members of the management team (or what is supposed to be the management team) become in fact the spirit, the essential center of the company. It becomes self aware and believes in and acknowledges itís authority as that spirit. 

2) The management team, now a true Team,  sees and acknowledges the company as it is and themselves exactly as they are. They acknowledge the corporate and human (emotional) drivers of performance. They do this both as the spirit of the company and as individuals. Identifying the real issues that lie at the heart and belly of the organization and drive its performance is the only preparation that is needed. A comprehensive questionnaire is recommended. 

3) The Team generates a real, visceral revulsion against those factors within the company that is causing the corporate impotence. Individuals share in this. A catharsis happens. Energy for change is released.

4) The Team defines for the company a new and detailed Business Blueprint. A blueprint that defines not just the usual strategies, tactics goals and objectives, but also defines and describes the spirit of the company. 

5) From the energy of this catharsis, the Team creates within itself a powerful commitment to this new future described in the Blueprint - detail by detail - Corporate and emotional driver by corporate and emotional driver.

6) With that same energy, the Team commits both as the spirit of the company and as individuals, to explicit actions to achieve each and every element of the business blueprint and to accept full accountability. 

7) Implementation and follow-up begins immediately. No time lost. 

The mechanism is profoundly simple. The CEO and management team sit down and address the issues - one by one - not just intellectually but also emotionally. As long as the CEO and the catalyst do not allow the managers to run away emotionally, and keep firmly before them the transitions the CEO wants to happen and demands bottom line effect for all the actions the team comes up with, all the rest will follow. 

Results begin to show immediately - initially within the emotional life of the team and the company, then on the bottom line. 

The first result is a palpable sense of relief. There are no more secrets. This happens within the first couple of hours. 

The second is the simplification of the politics of the company as its success becomes the real goal of the team and itís individual members. Other complicating politics vanish as inconsequential and trivial. Managers are now helping each other. 

The third is the coming into being of the team as an empowered entity that can address any issue of the company or itís own members. And with authority cause it to be resolved.

There is the growing enthusiasm, as the team, individually and collectively, defines itís future in terms that makes sense. (Few people are motivated by numbers and most plans are expressed that way.)

The managers and the teams accept accountability and the expectation of being held accountable. The managers know, not just intellectually but viscerally, that changes can and are being made. Decisions get made with increasing speed and things start happening. And the company is potent again.

Many, many more things happen also that depend on the unique condition and state of each company. But as they happen and are translated into actions that have positive bottom line impact then performance grows. Often it surges. 

The bottom-line results that we have seen from this Corporate Renewal Process have been consistent, always significant and sometimes remarkable, ranging into the millions. It appears that once the process is wholeheartedly driven by the CEO, it cannot fail to have the most positive results on the emotional life of the company, on itís effectiveness and on its performance. 

While "corporate impotence" is not a term that is often used, every manager knows exactly what it feels like. And knows exactly itís consequence to both company and people. What has not been well understood is that there exists a Corporate Viagra that can be taken for this condition, and that it works rapidly and well. It works not only for companies in difficulties but even better for companies that are healthy.

The only requirement for it to work is a CEO with the courage to make his managers look deep into the spirit of their company. And not flinch. 


Tom FitzGerald is a bottom-line oriented, consulting management engineer, who specializes in effecting major improvements in profitability, performance and growth. He
has worked with CEOs and COOs of more than 200 organizations in the US, Canada and Europe, ranging in size from start-up to Fortune Five Hundred.  By education, a physicist.  By birth, Irish.  By instinct and experience, a business catalyst.  Contact FitzGerald Associates here: http://www.managementconsultants.com.

For additional information on the concepts mentioned above, see: Fire In The Corporate Belly, The Preemptive Turnaround, The Company: Living Entity or Machine? and Corporate Retrenchment or Corporate Renewal? These are available through the publications page of http://managementconsultants.com.

Index of articles in The CEO Refresher by Tom FitzGerald | Many more articles on Leading Change, Creative Leadership, Executive Performance and Performance Improvement
in The CEO Refresher Archives

   


Copyright 1999 by Tom FitzGerald. All rights reserved.

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