Managers At The Old Shoe Factory
Many years ago, in a large city located in this land, there was a popular shoe factory. It boasted a long history of shoemaking. It made beautiful shoes and people from far and wide shopped there. To be a shoemaker at this place was a privilege reserved to a select number of learned craftsmen.
Then something happened. Sales began to plummet.
You see the craftsmen made only one type of shoe, one shoe at a time. To pay their craftsmen, management had to increase the price of shoes year over year. Soon, few customers were able to afford them. Consequently, the factory lost many loyal customers. Then other problems began to emerge.
The factory was run by men and the shoes were made by men. Women were not seen as potential customers, so shoes were not made for them. Women pressed the factory for their own style, but management wouldn't hear of it. Then came complaints that the quality of service and repair were inferior. Management knew best and complaints were ignored.
To compound these problems, scandal hit the factory. Some craftsmen were convicted of sexual harassment and theft. Morale hit a new low, several workers resigned, and fewer men applied for work. Some women who were highly qualified offered to help but to no avail. A few women, who found their way into the factory as support personnel, suggested several ways to up-date the stodgy place. They even suggested that it would help if women became managers. They were blatantly ignored. Instead, management searched the land and foreign countries to see if they could find a steady supply of male workers. Still there was a manpower shortage.
Management couldn't figure out why it was so difficult to recruit candidates to train for work that at one time was so highly prized.
Management called several meetings to solve their growing problems. Consultants were brought in. Many recommendations were made but few were implemented. Several reports sat on the shelf because the managers didn't get the answers they wanted to hear.
Sales continued to decline. The once popular Shoe Factory now lost its luster.
As time passed small start-ups entered the market place. They used new technology, better shoemaking techniques and faster production methods. They combed the internet and found new patterns and styles for both men and women. They used a better quality of leather and experimented with soles that lasted. They opened Boutiques and virtual stores and sold their shoes world-wide.
Back at the Old Shoe Factory management heard about this new way of making shoes and the way to market them. Instead of taking heed, they resorted to competing with the start-ups by launching negative ad campaigns. Behind closed doors they laughed at their automated methods saying, "they will never stand up to the quality of our craftsmen," even though their quality was fast fading away. They suggested, "selling shoes over the internet is just a fad, you watch, people will come back to us," except they didn't.
Today the factory closed its doors. The Old Shoe Factory was just too far behind to catch up.
By now you have probably figured out that this is a fictitious story about the unwillingness of management to change and keep up with new market demands. It may seem dated but not too far removed from today's reality.
Businesses continue to close because they didn't keep up with the advances in technology and the changes in society. I wonder how many businesses are preparing for the next generation of technological advances - that of Artificial Intelligence. Will they be like those in the Old Shoe Factory and treat the new trend as a fad? Or, will they take heed and prepare to adjust their strategies to embrace new and emerging advances.
The Shoe Factory story may be fictitious, but the unwillingness to change, the fear of change or a blindness to learning, often keep managers from doing what is best for the company. They keep doing what they they have always done, and that, as someone once said, "is a recipe for disaster."
So my friends don't get too comfortable wearing old shoes when it's time to try on new ones.
Note: Thank you to my friend Emile Kutarna for permission to modify his unpublished story about the Old Shoe Factory. Emile's original story was presented as a parable regarding the difficulty the Roman Catholic Church faces in its attempt to meet new realities and the evolutionary movement of the Spirit. I have taken the liberty to refashion several parts of the story line and apply it to managers who hold back change when change is necessary.
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