Sunday, September 2, 2012

Samsung needs crisis culture with room for failure

It's nice to dream about a workplace that is stress-free and devoid of emotional boss.  But it's not going to happen.  Most workplaces will have plenty of stress and emotionally charged boss who will give you an assignment while you are already working on a critical assignment.  Welcome to private sector.

One of primary examples is creating sense of crisis.  Often company creates sense of crisis to get the most out of each employee.  "Because our competitors are beating us", "because market is not going to wait for us", etc. are reasons cited by management team to fear and uncertainty among employees.  When employees are called to put out a fire, they rally behind it to meet the immediate objective.  So employers tend to use this tactic to get the extra mileage from everyone.  It unites the team behind a singular goal, and that's been field-tested to increase productivity.

But what happens when employees are consistently called to handle crisis?  What if everyone is asked to embrace crisis culture?

Samsung is well known for its crisis-driven management by following the leader.
It's time to think about how to fail-fast with new ideas.

That's how people talk about Samsung.  Samsung is well known for incredibly demanding work schedule and very hierarchical organization structure.  It's built on highly educated workforce who is eager to work extra hours to survive in corporate structure.  Samsung has proven that their world-class execution by matching and surpassing iPhone's capability with its Galaxy smartphone and tablet line within a span of a few years.

Samsung is a fast follower, and it's a very good one at that.  I believe that is because of its crisis culture that starts from the top.  Crisis handling mode is best suited to follow the leader.  But crisis culture by itself is not enough to create an innovative product.

What innovative company needs is employees who have a room to fail-fast and learn from the mistakes.  Constant crisis mode does not allow for a room to fail, and that's what's holding Samsung back from becoming the global leader in technology.

Crisis culture is not going away from private sector, and Samsung should not let it go either.  It encourages employees to make fast decisions and shorten time-to-market cycle.  That's a good thing.  But it does not have to compete with entrepreneurial spirit of employees.

Make fast decisions and copy fast.  Add to it that employees are allowed to experiment and fail fast.  Samsung will become the next Apple.

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