An Important Advice to Future Leaders - Your Organization is only as Strong as the Weakest Link

In this interconnected and integrated business landscape, aspiring leaders would be well advise to follow the simple rule that their organization is as strong as the weakest link and hence, they must ensure that all parts of the complex supply chain that make up their organization are equally strong. We can explain this by use of a simple metaphor. Take a chain for instance. If you put enough force on it from both ends, the weakest link of the chain snaps leading to the chain being broken. Similarly, if your organization has a weak spot, that would be the undoing as when the competitive forces exert pressure on your organization, then it would break in the same way that the chain broke. This is a powerful learning that many leaders in the corporate world learnt the hard way.

The point here is that many leaders think that by concentrating on a few divisions, regions, or operational areas, they can take it easy on the rest. However, recent events have shown that the relentless pressure of market forces makes the organization susceptible to breakdown and hit the organization the most where it is weakest.

This can be seen in the recent troubles in the airline industry where everyone thought that lowering fares and removing full service options would necessarily translate into higher volumes and increased profits. What they did not reckon with was the fact that the business landscape in which the airlines operate has changed brutally with higher fuel costs, operational expenses and the general decline in passengers because of the recession. This meant that despite concentrating on one aspect of the business that they thought was on strong ground, they ignored the weak points in their business models.

Similarly, the example of software and BPO companies is illustrative. They too thought that competing on the cost advantage was enough to sustain them. However, given the emergence of other countries with both the language and cost advantage similar to India, these companies are now realizing that the quality aspect that was traditionally weak in some operational areas is turning out to be their Achilles Heel. The mythological Greek Hero, Achilles, had a single weak point that was exploited by the Spartans. Hence, the lessons from the past as well as the present indicate that any organization is as strong as its weakest link and therefore, business leaders cannot overlook even the supposedly simple aspects.

Finally, Murphy’s Law states that if anything can go wrong, it will. Therefore, the implications are clear for business leaders. They have to carry the entire organization with them and not leave out any specific area as being minor or unimportant. The leaders of the future would have to contend with more interconnectedness and more complexity and hence, they have to be prepared to defend their organizational chain from attack by rivals. In conclusion, do not ignore any aspect thinking that it is minor or trivial. It might come back to haunt you.


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