Get Ready for The Wild Ride Ahead-i.e.-Trump!

This nation is in great peril. How can we expect the great and talented to step forward and offer to shoulder the burden of leadership when the price we ask them to pay becomes so great?  Even those who despise Trump must marvel at the price he and his family are being ask to pay. As a collective population, we are our own enemy engaged in the destruction of the institutions and the fibers that have long held us together. If we succeed in our destructive efforts, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Yet, in spite of the pain inflicted on him and his family, I’m on the side of those who expect “huge” things to happen under the Trump umbrella. I don’t, however, expect the ride to be a smooth one. There will be no soaring to new heights without some brutally damaging, downward bumps especially in the early days of his administration. We are about to experience BIG changes and that doesn’t happen without initial and painful downward spikes in virtually every aspect of government’s impact on us. If you are a proponent of the book, The Language of Excellence, you understand the change curve.

We change to make things better -- to move to a higher level of benefit or performance. That is why Trump won the Presidency. Unfortunately, we know that progress toward those goals is never achieved in a straight-line fashion. Change, especially big change, results in an immediate decline in performance or delivered benefit counter to our expectation of improvement. It is only over time that that the change curve can be turn upward and the goal eventually reached.


For the downward spike in performance to be reversed, incoming members of the new administration must reacquire the job knowledge “that walked out the door” with the change in the administration. Knowledge alone, however, is not enough. Like an athlete building muscle memory, the newcomers have to become fully competent incumbents for whom making sound decisions becomes almost habit.

In business, we explain the change curve’s performance this way. To reverse the downward spike and reach the goal of higher performance requires KASH—new knowledge which combined with the right attitude leads to building new skills which over time become habit.

During favorable circumstances, we benefit from push and pull forces that shorten the downward spike. Today, we don’t have many forces encouraging success. Rather than a favorable press for example, it is pushing down—a negative force deepening the likely downward plunge in an almost “I told you so” effort to prove that the voters made the wrong choice. Luckily, we do have an incoming president, who like the god Atlas, is trying to push up on the curve with all his might. But he does so without a lot of help. His fellow Republicans are not carrying an honest share of the load. For them, it is his burden. They “put in an appearance” but only to share the glory of success, and they act with enough caution to avoid blame if Atlas falters. It has been said a thousand ways —victory is claimed by all, failure to one alone

I’m pulling for Atlas. I want “huge” changes. I only hope his (Trump’s) shoulders are strong enough to keep this shaky nation aloft. 

Luck Favors the Prepared


Change (especially uncertain change) is the stuff of opportunities—provided you have developed a way of thinking that prepares the firm to take advantage of whatever the future brings.  The French scientist Louis Pasteur said it in one short sentence: “Chance favors only the prepared mind.”  If Pasteur had been English, the quote would have been, “Luck favors the prepared mind.”
When consulting with a midsize law firm a few years ago, I suggested that the partners adopt the practice of meeting monthly for a half-day session where they did nothing but think about things that could happen and then thinking about how they could happen differently.  The mission would be to identify strategies that would allow the firm to benefit rather than suffer from these events.
Suppose, for example, that a member of the law firm is arrested for unsavory activities unrelated to the law firm.  What steps should the firm take?  Suppose a major local corporation with significant legal needs loses its general counsel unexpectedly.  How could the law firm respond in a way to take advantage of the situation?  Suppose a single-payer health system is adopted by the U.S. government.  What problems and opportunities occur if Mexico nationalizes American businesses? How would the firm respond to another Enron?  What happens if outside investors are allowed to own U.S. law firms?  Suppose a major client of the law firm contemplates moving its headquarters to a state where your firm doesn’t currently practice?  How should your firm respond to a news release that a major U.S. corporation is relocating its headquarters to your area? What if events similar to those that destroyed Arthur Anderson occur with respect to a U.S. mega law firm?
Could the firm have anticipated the events involving Big Tobacco, the rise of the overnight letter business, the advent of, or the wave of refinancing sparked by falling interest rates?  Could the firm have been better positioned to take advantage of Sarbanes-Oxley?  Is the firm prepared for the next Katrina? Does the fact that 3.6 million Americans will turn 65 in 2012 open opportunities for your firm?  Can the firm take advantage of a major changing of the guard in corporate America?
If the firm follows my suggestion, that “thinking outside of the box” exercise is likely to become the firm’s vehicle for rapid response to real-life events which will position the firm to capitalize rather than suffer from uncertain future events.  Chance, Luck, Opportunities—whatever you call it—it can best benefit those who are prepared.  Practice prepares a business team to take advantage of events that surprise others. 
Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders.   For signed copies go to Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes' iBookstore.

Opportunity Wedge

Change made in pursuit of opportunities can also eliminate other opportunities.  But the same can be said for the lack purposeful change.  While decisions and change are not the same, they are closely related.  Indecisions and inaction has consequences on a level equal to purposeful decisions and change.  Remember, change happens.  You either change to prosper and survive or natural forces change you and your environment and for the worse.  The Opportunity Wedge conveys that each decision and indecision, each change (purposeful or not) impacts future options and opportunities for a company.  In business, management should consider the impact of changes on future opportunities.  They fight against the normal narrowing of the wedge.  The company that moves from Lifecycle to Lifecycle, and carefully considers the impact of their action and inaction on the future, will have an Opportunity Wedge that is more like an elongated open ended box—the upper line represents maximum opportunities and the lower line represents no alternative (or new) opportunities will be more parallel—avoiding the normal linear narrowing of the wedge.  They keep their options open.  Using the example of Underwood—the fact that they decided they were a typewriter company rather than a document production company narrowed the wedge to a sharp point and that led to their eventual disappearance as a company and then as a brand.  On the other hand, Steve Jobs at Apple would not limit that business to a “computer company.” 

You are invited to an Eligant Evening of Mystery

If you are going to be around Nashville or Franklin on November 15,  make reservations for "An Evening of Mystery" at Lillie Belles restaurant in historic downtown Franklin.  Call 615-595-9557 for reservations or 615-327-0100 for more information. The evening with author Tom Collins includes a gourmet multiple-course dinner, a copy of The Claret Murders plus a live performance as the audience tries to solve the mystery--who killed Mr. Boddy, where was he killed and with what weapon?  The Claret Murders, a new mystery novel by Tom Collins. is available in paperback from Amazon and e-book editions are available for the Kindle, Nook, and Apple’s iPad— or go to for a signed copy

Slot Machine Management

One of the wrong ways to make change is characterized by Slot Machine Management—the slot machine manager makes frequent changes similar to a compulsive gambler repeatedly pulling the arm of a slot machine hoping that that next pull will be a winner.

Change is essential for the long-term success of a business. Without change, success doesn’t happen.  Yet the paradox is that the failure of management to understand change and competently manage it is high on the list of reasons businesses fail—not merely small businesses or new businesses.  Well established businesses often fall victim to the lack of a corporate memory.  Each generation of management tends to relearn the mistakes of prior generations.  While their sheer size insulates giant corporations from disappearing altogether, they can wind up on the dustbin of wannabes—companies that are no longer in the leadership positions they once held.  The culprit is often a slot machine approach.  IBM is one example.  There was a period of time when the company reorganized frequently—shifting managers to new rolls and specialties before they had become competent in their current assignments.  They realigned their sales force every six to twelve months—changing industry assignments, making regional and division assignments, etc.  Each reorganization (each pull of the one-armed bandit) rendered the company less successful and less competitive, symptoms of Slot Machine Management.

As performance goes south, the slot machine manager reacts by implementing more change to stem the fall in performance.  In effect the gambler reaches up and pulls the slot machine handle with the hope that maybe this time he will hit the jackpot rather than lemons.  That precipitates another fall in results and more changes by management, spiraling the company down to lower and lower results.


In 2010 Music City suffered a great flood.  Nashville streets were turned into streams and the streams into raging killing zones.  That is the setting for my newest novel, The Claret Murders, available on for $15.99 or at only $2.99 for the Kindle, Nook and through iTunes for the iPad.


As an enterprise grows and begins to compartmentalize into specialized segments or departments, sub-optimization, another natural negative change, will occur in the absence of clear leadership and frequent communication.  Sub-optimization is the condition where a specialty area gives their own objectives a higher priority than that given to the common objectives of the organization.

The tendency is a natural phenomenon and must be managed and controlled.  Where conflict exists between the unit goals and those of the organization as a whole, sub-optimization is damaging and distracting.  For long-term purposeful success the organization must be consistent and proactive in maintaining harmony between the unit’s goals and those of the organization.  Communication is essential in that process.  A sales department’s goal to achieve quota can lead to over promising and under delivering.  The legal department’s objective of protecting the firm from liability can result in one-sided unrealistic terms.  A shipping department’s goal to avoid overtime can result in late deliveries to customers.  The marketing department’s goal for maintaining a uniform message can strangle the organization’s efforts to reach diverse segments of the market.
PS: The popular wine blog posted a review of The Claret Murders.  If you love good wine,  you will want to read The Claret Murders.  It is available in print for $15.99 or as an e-book, Kindle, Nook or iPad, for $2.99.  

Parkinson’s Law—Overworked and Underpaid

The Lifecycle explains one of the natural forces at work driving change, but there are other factors at work as well.  Parkinson’s Law is one of the more important of those natural forces impacting business negatively.  Cyril Northcote Parkinson (30 July 1909 – 9 March 1993) was a British naval historian and author of some sixty books, the most famous of which was his bestseller Parkinson's Law, which led him to also be considered as an important scholar within the field of public administration.  He is credited with the infallible observation that “work expands to fill available time” and by extension “expenses rise to meet income.”  It is the idea that work creates work and thus management must be constantly diligent and alert—simplifying and eliminating.  That is the ability that governments and bureaucracies seem unable to master.  Without change dedicated to simplifying and eliminating, negative forces will drive a business into unsustainable levels of inefficiency. 
PS:  I will be signing my books at the Landmark Booksellers in Franklin TN on September 13, 2012 from 5:30 to 7:30.  The event is called a Book Tasting and we will have wine (claret of course), cheese, snacks, free gifts and prizes.  If you have already purchased The Claret Murders or any of my other books bring them with you to be signed.