The Broken Plate Theory
The key to successful growth is broken plates. Let me explain.
There are only three resources available to any organization:
It doesn’t matter if you are a home-based business, a large multi-national or fast-growth, medium-sized business, you do not have enough time, money or energy. The key to success is how effectively you apply those resources. Strategy is the process of deciding how to allocate them. Sometimes a critical part of strategy is deciding where you won’t apply your time, money or energy.
Whenever I have strategy discussions, I always think of those variety shows where some performer comes out and spins plates. When the spinner had just a few plates, it was a lot of fun to watch as all the plates spun magnificently. But as more plates were added, they began to wobble and the spinner had to work harder and harder to keep them all going smoothly. None of the plates spun as well as when there were just a few. Soon, despite the spinner’s efforts, plates began to fall and break.
Think of your opportunities or tasks as plates. When you have a few, you do them well. As you add more plates, you (and your organization) have to work harder and harder. Soon, despite your best efforts, results start to fall below expectations.
The key for any great growth company (and great ones are the only ones that last) is to determine which plates it will keep spinning no matter what. In other words, you have to decide which tasks you will focus on and which ones you will abandon. Okay, so that’s not new. Lots of consultants have given this message.
Now, let me give you the rest of the message – the part that no one seems to like to tell. When you choose which plates (opportunities or tasks) you are going to keep spinning, you also determine which ones you are NOT going to keep spinning. The plates you don’t spin will wobble and fall. When they fall, they will break. There will be a loud noise. There will be a mess to clean up. It won’t be pretty. What I want to tell you is that it’s okay. You have to let some plates break if you’re going to do a great job of keeping the plates that matter spinning well. Companies that don’t, spread their resources too thin and get stuck.
Of course, if you don’t want plates to clean up, your only other option is to leave them all wobbling – and what’s the fun in that?
Until next time, Doug
If you have a lot of plates that are starting to wobble and aren’t sure which ones to put your time, money or energy into spinning further, you may want to get your team to work through our Growth Barriers Diagnostic.