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Monday, October 10, 2011

Why Short Cuts Ruin Results


I had the honor of meeting Dan Coughlin at the Association of Fundraising Professionals Arizona Statewide Conference in 2008 in Tucson. We have been using some of Dan's concepts with nonprofit organizations, and subscribe to his newsletter to see what new gems he can share. Here's an excerpt from his latest article which we think applies to many in the nonprofit field, reprinted with permission. The full article is available at http://thecoughlincompany.com/cc_vol10_7.html (Thanks, Dan!-Alice)

Why Shortcuts Ruin Results by Dan Coughlin

People are often categorized into groups by things like their gender, race, height, year of birth, and nationality. Then all sorts of assumptions are made about each person based on their combination of these labels.
Those labels mean nothing to me. They don’t tell me anything about the individual because the individual had no choice over any of them when he or she was born. Each person was just given those labels.

What’s vastly more interesting to me is whether the person is a short-term thinker or a long-term thinker. Each person gets to choose which of these categories he or she is going to operate within.

A short-term thinker focuses on doing whatever he or she can do to get a good short-term result. The short-term thinker idolizes shortcuts. Shortcuts are fast ways to get really good results, but that are not capable of producing good results consistently over the long term.

A long-term thinker focuses on doing things that will generate good short-term results on such a consistent basis that the long-term results are good as well. The long-term thinker realizes you can’t get poor results all of the time in the short term and expect to get good results over the long term. The long-term thinker abhors shortcuts because he or she knows they breed habits that can’t sustain success.

This is such a subtle difference between short-term and long-term thinkers that it may seem insignificant. However, the ramifications over time are undeniably dramatic in every area of life.


Education
The short-term thinker stays up all night to cram for an exam, gets an A, and then forgets everything he or she learned on the topic. The long-term thinker steadily does homework, asks questions in class, takes good notes, and is well-rested and prepared for each test. This person also gets an A on the test, but is prepared to produce at this level consistently over time. The short-term thinker eventually hits a ceiling because all he or she knows is what can be crammed in during an all-out session.

Health
The short-term thinker goes on a crash diet to lose thirty pounds. The long-term thinker works out four to five times a week and eats well-balanced meals and keeps his or her weight at a reasonable level on an on-going basis. The short-term thinker eventually gains the weight back plus a bunch more.

Athletics
Two dads stand beside each other at a youth basketball game. The one child is eleven months older and much taller and stronger and faster than the other child. The older child’s father is a short-term thinker. He thinks, “My kid has what it takes to be a great player.” The other child’s dad is a long-term thinker. He thinks, “We’ll just keep working on skills and see what happens.” Ten years later the two children are the same size and height and strength and speed. The younger child has much better skills and goes on to play college basketball. The older child has never really moved beyond the glory days of being eight years old.

Business
The short-term organization rides a trend in the marketplace to get good results, but does not have the processes in place to produce good results when the trend comes to an end. Apple, being the long-term organization that it is, has focused consistently on building insanely great products and developed a process that has produced a series of homerun products. If one product didn’t work out, they had the habits in place to produce another great product. Same is true with Walt Disney (long term focus on delivering quality family entertainment), Rolex (long-term focus on creating extraordinary watches), Ralph Lauren (long-term focus on providing easy luxury), and Toyota (long-term focus on building extraordinarily reliable cars). Even when these companies ran into hard times or made mistakes, they still maintained their long-term thinking approach.

The World’s Greatest Business Challenge
The greatest challenge in business is not to achieve success. The greatest challenge is to sustain success over the long term. In order to do that, you have to consistently maintain a long-term thinking approach.

As you run your business or your part of your business, I’m asking you to think about this question, “How can I generate the best possible result today in a way that allows us to generate more good results for many years to come?” That is a significantly different question than, “How can I generate a great result today?” One is for long-term thinkers and the other is for short-term thinkers.

Avoid shortcuts and achieve results in ways that allow you to be successful again in the future.

About Dan Coughlin
Visit www.thecoughlincompany.com. Dan Coughlin is a leading authority on managing for long-term business success. He is a business keynote speaker, seminar leader, and executive coach on leadership, innovation, and branding. He is also the author of four books on generating sustainable, profitable growth. His clients include McDonald’s, GE, Toyota, Prudential, Coca-Cola, Marriott, Jack in the Box, Boeing, Abbott, Denny’s, Subway, Holder Construction, Kiewit, Ace Hardware, and the St. Louis Cardinals.

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