“Whatever may go wrong, will go wrong”


It seemed my university housemate was a magnet for this maxim; however I will save the stories of our reckless adventurous journey as students for another time and place… In the business context however, Murphy’s Law entails a “fairytale” gratifying line of events, which are going wrong in the most unsuitable times.


A good illustration of this point is the Zantaz Company that specialise in email archive software. The net value of the organisation in 2007 estimated $375m, however  after the company was bought out by Autonomy Group, the sale share of the original founder was watered down to absurd $650,000. It is perceived through transgression of the internal decision making apparatus, leading to severe drop in valuation and dilution of early stakeholders (source: Venture Beat).


Similarly, the wake of the General Motors joins the boat of fail. The supposition of the company’s bankruptcy is the business process modelling / management (BPM). The logic behind is very simple - to manage the manufacturing costs. The series of actions to achieve the end result required to “test every auto part, and look for the most expensive parts that were the most reliable. Next, ask suppliers for a cheaper version of that part”. On the chart of the quality versus the cost, it is most likely to affect a curve in the negative way. The competitors on the other hand use similar BPM but, as kindly argued by the decision management expert James Taylor, they have adopted a “different set of decision-making criteria”. In short, the biting indiscretion was a result of the tactical decision misplay and could have been prevented.


The final case I want to bring to your attention is Cisco Systems and their Human Network Effect: meet more, travel less (do watch it) TV commercial, which I personally find rather tasteful. The back story with reference to the commercial is the inappropriate broadcasting time, which happened to be during news coverage of the crashed plane in the river. The advertisement mocks routine plane emergency instructions and the unlikely event of water landing”. Alana Semuels acknowledged general and Cisco distress with regards to the ironical situation.

“Any time there’s a big news incident, advertising professionals work to pull ads that may offend viewers by hitting a little too close to home. That’s why you probably won’t be seeing any airline commercials soon. Unfortunately for Cisco though, planes fall from the sky more quickly than the ad departments of TV networks can move.”


The above examples are only a slight extent of how events in the business situation can go really wrong. No one is completely protected from a scenario of different variables, which can potentially cripple the lifeblood of your company. However, there are general pointers to be followed to minimise the risks of unexpected exposure:


  • Do protect your business, have a contingency plan and a back-up strategy (”A” and “B” plan);
  • It is absolutely vital to prioritise and focus on strategic areas, especially in multiple projects but never neglect organisation and development. Left to themselves things tend to go from bad to worse, Laissez Faire (Let it Be) is a big No-No;
  • Constantly review your “span of command” and “operations mechanism”. Look into all anomalies and report where applicable. It is very easy to leave something out in wide and tall hierarchical structures;
  • Carry out extensive market research. If you do lack the resources for own research and development department, outsourcing might be your answer. Never underestimate the usefulness of competitor analysis, even in the times of hardship - be prepared, not sorry!


And most importantly “Smile… tomorrow will be worse”. ; )

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