Freeze Framed


“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got. Till it’s gone  They paved paradise . And put up a parking lot.”  – Joni Mitchell

freeze frame 

Don’t Blink

No one ever wants to miss something big, and to be sure, only a handful of freeze frame moments happen over the course of a career. Distinguished by their greatness, these moments allow us to catch that proverbial lightning in the bottle. Unless we miss them, that is, because we are not paying close enough attention to what is happening around us.

It actually turns out to be pretty easy to miss these moments because we are all increasingly very busy people, and all too often high achievement personality types take success as a given.  Stay focused as we head out of the gates into yet another Corporate New Year, and just maybe you will get to see one.

Pleased be advised that these moments have a certain “now you see them, now you don’t” slight-of-hand quality, as these days, something always seems to come along to shake up our Shangri Las. This is the inevitable and escalating sense of disruption and change that abounds in today’s corporate world.

Dream Team

In a newly formed manufacturing unit, a plant manager had the luxury of pretty much handpicking his entire management team.  The composition of the team was the pure genius of this situation. The well-balanced chemistry of this team provided the freeze frame moment.  Of course it didn’t last forever, but while it did, it was impressive.

What caused the fade and the change to something not as good was a gradual confluence of personnel changes, union-management issues, and external factors that were in reality much bigger than this dream team’s value to the company.  With specific reference to our opening lyric above, part of this manufacturing facility really has since become a parking lot.

Hyper Growth

Another freeze frame moment involved a small but fast-growing company.  There was a tremendous amount of low-hanging fruit for any functional or business leader who could recognize the opportunities and manage toward them.  As enough capable and similarly minded leaders assembled and built much-needed infrastructure, the company’s freeze frame moment was defined by the phrase “printing money”.  Of course this didn’t last forever either, but while it did, it was impressive.

What caused the fade and change here to something not as good was a classic soap operatic tale of ego, greed, and lack of down side planning.  The company’s ownership and its once very successful leadership team in a few short years became a very dysfunctional set of sub-optimizing fiefdoms.  Undermining its own success became so routine that its entrepreneurial spirit and goodness became fully engulfed in a flame of blame.  As a result, the company was not as well-positioned as it could have been for the hugely recessionary conditions that loomed just around the bend.

Boys & Toys

Technology companies with cool products tend to attract some bright and talented technical folks as employees. This third and final freeze frame moment involves a case of huge energy and enthusiasm around new product development. Of course, new products of any kind require innovation, money, a certain latitude within which to create. Given all of these, a boys and their toys culture that intersects with market or segment growth is hard to beat.

What can cause a fade and change to something not as good in this technical example is the same recessionary environment referenced in the Hyper Growth scenario.  The reality of near historic down market conditions is disruption that forces technology and other companies to do things differently.  Everyone’s world changes, at least temporarily. Reorganizations, spending cuts, leadership changes, etc…..However, true innovation underlying a freeze frame moment will regenerate itself as conditions improve.

After all, this is the essence of an innovative culture – not losing sight of the longer-term rewards of a beneficial culture when times get rough.


About Thomas W. Smith
Bizsinc - Bringing Business to Life

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