13 August 2012

Stage 8 Preventing the Inevitable Decline - 3 Guides from I-Ching

The basic principle of I-Ching teaching is that everything goes in cycles. Some start-up will make it big into large and successful global companies. But those very success will bring in the stagnation and decline even to oblivion. The three Guides here tell us how to detect it and how to take action to prevent it.
What should Apple's Tim Cook be reading with the current great success of Apple? How can he prevents it from becoming a Kodak or Nokia? Ancient Chinese can provide some wisdom...

G1 Stagnation - How to Detect and Clear it from #12 否 Stagnation
If you ask how did the great and successful man fail, the answer is likely to be pride. But pride, like greed, are not easily detectable. Who ever say that he has enough? We just want a little bit more! Who ever says that he or she  is proud? So, saying that a major cause of decline is pride is not going to be helpful. We find go deeper and this is where i-Ching wisdom is useful. It tells what are the symptoms and behaviors to watch out for. #12 Stagnation first 3 lines of wisdom give us 3 symptoms:
  1. System Procedures and Practices - Out-dated and Inefficient
    1. Are they outdated compared to the current practices?
    2. Are they defective? 
    3. No one care to maintain, tune and optimize the system. They just let the system degrade with time.  The manufacturing costs are higher, cycle time longer, waste is more than their competitors. The company continue to produce products and services that market are not buying.
  2. People Attitudes and Behaviors - Bossing Pleasing
    1. Staff are more concern about buttering up their bosses rather than caring for the customers or even one another.
    2. They are not concern about performance but concern more about being nice. Don't rock the boat.
  3. Sense of Right and Wrong - Whoever has the Power has the say
    1. Right or Wrong is determined by the boss and not by any objective or social moral standards. The desires of the boss is higher than the ethics and laws. 
    2. Hence, corrupt and illegal practices slowly creep into the company. 
I-Ching suggests that the change must start at the top and propagate down throughout the entire company. It is a tough act but must be executed well in order for the company to survive. Don't let the corruption takes deep root and make the change too late.

G2 Infighting and Disorderliness - Remove them with #18 蠱 Worm 
Another big cause of the downfall of empire and corporations is infighting. I-Ching depicts it well as 3 worms fighting in a bowl. Staff are more concern with which political camp to join and support to win the internal battle. Road blocks and traps are set up to impede the success of the other 'enemy' divisions.  Work and resources are duplicated to build strength to compete with each other, all in the same company. The staff are inward focus rather than outward customers and partners focus. 

#18 Worm tells us to recognize and face the reality of this infighting. It is important to let all recognize this infighting and the harm it brings. Hopefully this triggers a change for the better. The change may include the tearing down of the 'holy cows' of some and go for a win-win for all. It takes great leadership and effort to put thing right again. Go for the right thing for the masses rather than the good things of some interested party. 

G3 Creeping Decay and Stopping it from #23 剝 Stripping 
Big successful company don't collapse suddenly. It may appear to be sudden only to those that are not watching. There are always signs of the decay. They are just unheeded until the last straw that break the camel's back. Quite a number of people foresaw the dot-com crashes of the 2000 - the cash will run out faster than what the management think then. They also forewarn the problem the sub-prime loans and the derivatives. But many, even the big banks and investors ignore the warnings because they have never seen such collapse before.  

Creeping decay is difficult to detect but we have the time to detect it and stop it as early as possible. Early correction and fixing is much cheaper and easier than at later stage. This is the teaching from #23 Stripping. Detection comes from listening to the warning of people. Finding any deviation from the standards. Fixing calls for speed and well co-ordinated effort by all.


Follow This Series Making I-Ching Come Alive!

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Next:Stage 9 How to Get Out of the Pit - 5 Transformational Wisdom from I-Ching


Lim Liat (C) 12 Aug 2012


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