Do You Have the Guts to Blow Things Up?

By Rick Dunham, CEO at Dunham+Company

Years ago I wrote a blog on the gravitational pull of mediocrity. My point was that the natural pull for an organization was toward mediocrity not excellence or success.

In reality, success requires hard, intentional and often disruptive work that rattles the status quo.

That’s why I believe one of the things a leader needs to be willing to do is blow things up. Not literally, of course, but figuratively.

Here’s what I mean.

A natural tendency of any organization is to develop a bit like an amoeba; adding a position here, another position there, a system on top of a system… and before you know it you have this strange looking thing that doesn’t function as it should.

What was once trim and effective becomes bloated, inefficient, and ineffective.

That’s why you need to be willing to blow things up.

In fact, it would serve you well to have built into the DNA of your organization an attitude that blowing things up and rebuilding them to make them work better should be celebrated – whether a process, a department or a service.

We have a saying at Dunham+Company, and that is… if you want to be the best, you have to work at constantly being better. And sometimes that means blowing things up.

Not long ago we were faced with an inconvenient fact after an internal audit: one of our divisions was significantly underperforming, and the closer we looked the more it was clear we were the victims of our own neglect. We could try and use some touch-up paint here or knock out a ding there, but at the end of the day, that wouldn’t solve the problem.

So the head of this division blew up the entire model.

She has redefined deliverables and restructured roles that more accurately reflect what this division needs to deliver. And she tore apart the work process and rebuilt it from the ground up.

This was hard work and it was terribly inconvenient.

But you have to be driven to not settle for the norm… to stop doing business as usual. Instead, you need to be willing to do the hard yards of rethinking how to deliver best-of-class work and, if necessary, blow up what you currently have and rebuild it to make that best-of-class work a reality.

If your area of responsibility is underperforming, do you have the guts to blow it up?