Saturday, May 06, 2006

On Time, Business Fads and the Destruction of Value

We all complain, certainly I do, about the way in which our lives seem to chew up time. We are so busy travelling, so busy doing things, that spare discretionary time seems to vanish. From a business advisory viewpoint, everything has to be done and presented to fit in with the very limited time clients have to consider issues.

This obsession with time extends to payback issues. Results must come quickly or the project will be shelved. This obsession with quick results makes executives, and especially CEO's, incredibly vulnerable to new magic bullet ideas promising great results in short time. Yet the reality is that most most new things take time to plan, time to develop, time to consolidate. Yes, we can shorten the time involved through better planning and project management, but there is still an irreducible minimum required.

The problem is greatest in people related activities. We all still accept that a major engineering project will take time because of the technical and logistic issues involved. But when it comes to investment in people, in the development of structures and supporting processes and cultures, we now want instant results. The outcome can be disastrous.

The current obsession with brands and branding is a case in point. Brands are seen as something with value to be managed and maximised. All this is of course true. Yet when we look back over the last fifty years, it has been the greatest period of brand destruction in history measured by the number of previously great brands that have simply vanished.

This shortening brand life expectancy is simply accepted as a feature of modern life, something inevitable in a world of greater information and rapid change. I challenge this idea of inevitability. I would argue that brand preservation is still possible, but only if a longer term management approach is adopted.