Doing the Right Thing or Doing the Thing Right?


do-the-right-thingHow often do we found ourselves reading or hearing these two sentences? Very often probably, such messages can be found on billboard as a slogan for some companies or uttered many times as a word of wisdom from our parents or our superiors. These words have been spoken by many and practiced by some; with such resounding legacy, it isn’t hard to see why there are a number of people that claim one of these two words as the key to their success. It is really up to us then, to apply the right principle within the right situation. However, we need to distinguish between these two different principles first, in order to fully comprehend their meaning.

There are two companies that each applied one of these two principles to their business model. One company focuses its business on making a common rice sacks; an efficiency consultant from Germany calculated that by increasing the efficiency of their operational performance, this company could save up to $200,000 each month. His calculation shows how the company operated in a very inefficient manner. At around the same time, the German consultant also made an efficiency calculation towards a department store; from his calculation he found out that he cannot make the department store to save any more money. The department store had such a well developed system practiced with an utmost discipline by all of its employee. It even won an award from the Governor for consistently providing a pleasant service for its clients. Long story short, the department store went bust while the rice sack company still operates until today.

What went wrong the department store? The management did everything right, thus uplifting “doing the thing right” principal. Every possible cause for inefficiency were taken care of well in advance before it ended up happening, but that doesn’t prevent the department store from closing down. Actually, there was nothing wrong with the department store itself. Only a few years prior it went bust, two new department stores were built, they were also bigger and more modern. Being unable to compete and losing a lot of its customer to the competitors, the very efficient department store had no choice but to close its business down.

Whereas for the rice sack company, though it might not always be a smooth sail for them, the company can enjoy growth and sustainability because there are no direct competitor for their business. Even with poor operational performance, this company is able to survive because its pioneer did “the right thing” by tapping into a business environment that had relatively low competition, and quickly becoming a major player in its field. Which is a perfect strategy to ensure the sustainability of the company, or indeed any company in hindsight.

From this comparison, we are able to tell that “doing the thing right” is closely tied to finding a way to improve and maintain a company’s absolute strength, its operation. Whereas “doing the thing right” is closely tied to finding a way be one step ahead of the competitor at all time and at all cost; which is the company’s relative strength, its strategy. We could also learn that the relative strength of a company can cover up its absolute weakness for a longer period of time; whereas the absolute strength of a company can only do so much for its lagging competitive advantage.

With that insight in mind, does that means that a company should focus all of its resources and attention towards making an effective strategy at the cost of its operational efficiency? Ideally, any company should have both, it should have a great teamwork that ensures an effective operation, and a the mentality of troops at war when executing a strategy to stay on top of the competitors. Excellence in operating the business efficiently will ensure the year-end profit performance, whilst excellence in effectively strategizing a company’s direction will ensure its sustainable profitability. Therefore it is essential for a company to “do the right thing right!”

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