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The Million Doller Idea

Sherry Andre
Assistant Professor

Johnson & Wales University
Guest Blogger

With the New Year right around the corner, it is pretty safe to say many people will be creating a list of New Year’s resolutions. However, the reality is most people will never accomplish what they set out to achieve. Is it because their idea or plan is flawed? Probably not. Instead, it is much more likely to be the result of a failed attempt at execution, similar to a well defined strategy that fails to reach fruition due to implementation failure.

Do you think you are the exception? I don’t know. If you’re reading this maybe you are, but regardless I ask you to consider the following. I’ve heard we are exposed to at least one $1 million idea every day, but most, in fact almost all of us fail to do anything with those ideas. In a world so obsessed with money and material objects, this sounds a bit contradictory.
Perhaps this is why Hedges (1995) writes that “...the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company once remarked to a group of shareholders, ‘I’d reluctantly pay $1 for a great idea, but I’d gladly pay $1 million for the plan to implement that idea.’” (p. 109)  

Clearly, a strategy without a solid plan for implementation is almost as bad as having no strategy at all. As such, the techniques used to carry out a strategy ultimately become a critical factor in its success. Pisapia (2009) addresses this point and suggests using the process of “alignment” (p. 122), or when the organization matches its values, resources, and activities to its goals. He contends that for strategic leaders to carry out this task it is imperative that they build trust with their followers. In doing so, they must create a common ground among employees, build networks with internal and external people and groups, and practice the art of bartering.  Ideally, for effective strategy implementation to occur, followers need to be connected mentally and emotionally.

Take for example Circuit City.  Here was a company competing in an industry that included one of the fastest growing markets of all time, technology. Unlike gas stations, supermarkets, or clothing retail outlets, they basically had one primary competitor, Best Buy. Nevertheless, they still failed to implement a strategy that would capitalize on the growing demand of consumers’ needs for electronic devices. While their failure may have been the result of a faulty plan or perhaps no plan at all, I think it was more likely to have been the result of poor execution. 

More specifically, I believe a primary cause of their failed attempt lay in their inability to create a team based on trust and human compassion. This became evident to me when they elected to fire 3,500 employees and then offered to rehire them at a lower pay rate (MSNBC, 2007).

The truth is, even if they were successful in recapturing a talent pool willing to work for much less than they had been, would it be possible to incorporate the personal relationship networks built on trust that Pisapia (2009) highlights as a key factor to carrying out a strategy? And, how high would their level of commitment be, a critical component of successful execution that Kim and Mauborgne (2005) discuss? Perhaps Circuit City’s leader felt he could move the company forward on his own. This is a very dangerous belief.  Personally, after being fired and then rehired at a lower pay rate, I highly doubt the employees felt trust or even cared about the organization’s goals and objectives.

So what is the million dollar idea?  Execution, alignment and culture eats Strategies lunch every day! It was no accident that Circuit City was forced to close its doors forever only a few years later.

What do you think?
Do you have a story to share?

John Pisapia 2010

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