Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Seven Sins of Business

Those who know me well know that I have an interest in theology in addition to my work in corporate strategy and large-scale enterprise architecture.

In reading the Book of Revelations last night, it occurred to me that the sins attributed to the seven churches apply to many businesses as well.

How many of these “sins” is your organization guilty of?


Has lost sight of its first love, or in business nomenclature, its vision, mission and purpose and drives along aimlessly before running out of resources and momentum.  They have also lost a “love” for those whom they serve, especially their customers and their own team members.  The leaders in such organizations are unable or unwilling to cast a vision that creates excitement and passion for others to embrace while envying others who can create such passion.


Has victory within reach but is at risk of failure because when the squeeze of reality hits, their belief in themselves wavers and their ability to persevere needs to be shored up – but do they have the courage to ask for help in strengthening their resolve?  They also don’t realize the gifts that are before them.  Excessive ego and the inability to obtain help or the reverse, insufficient self-confidence, have destroyed many companies in such predicaments.


Are willing to compromise their corporate and personal morals and ethics to win, not realizing that such a strategy is short-lived and fraught with peril.  Wishy-washy ethics and morals, which are especially important when one is faced with challenge, are a sure-fire way to send a loud message to the public that says “I don’t know what I represent or what I am willing to stand up for”.  Such a message is easily picked apart by those receiving it as well as those looking to take advantage of one’s weaknesses.


Is rotting from within as a result of internal power struggles.  It fails to recognize that such rot from within, with multiple agendas that are not in congruence with the organization and its team members, including in the areas of morals, ethics and execution style eventually destroys the entire organization.  Strong leadership stamps this out early.  Weak leaders tolerate it or in some cases, encourage it because they think, incorrectly, that such strategy strengthens their own potential.


Has lost its energy and drive for what matters and is on auto-pilot, with its present course taking it straight into the side of a mountain.  Meanwhile, they are focused on expending energy on what doesn’t matter in order to impress others – they look alive but in fact they are dead and no one seems to have the energy, interest or authority to bring its course back on track to one of success.  In some cases, attempts by outsiders to help are thwarted for fear that “it may make us look bad if someone else saves what we couldn’t or wouldn’t”.  Sufficient ego and energy well-utilized propel us to success.  Excessive ego or misdirected energy kills that same success potential.


Has a small amount of power with huge potential for leverage and opportunity but  faces risk if it doesn’t take advantage of the opportunities such leverage provides, leaving a large amount of untapped potential on the table.  While they don’t appear to be doing anything wrong, potential unrealized can be as wasteful as doing the wrong thing.  If someone else seizes the opportunity, the potential they once had is lost for good.  Never underestimate the success that manifests when one seizes the moment, otherwise the competition will seize the moment to your detriment.


Despite tremendous wealth and opportunity, their complacency and smugness fills them with over-confidence.  This creates a laziness in execution, causing them to display an exorbitant amount of compromise, with its vision, mission and values blowing in the wind and its corporate execution constantly changing direction based on the opportunity / pressure du jour.  Eventually, no one know what it stands for and its opportunity for success is lost.  This is common in organizations with weak leadership or organizations that lack a strong, clearly communicated business strategy.

Such “sins”, while potentially fatal, can be overcome with corrective action.

However, corrective action in any of these cases requires:

  • the right amount of humility
  • the right amount of ego to balance against humility
  • sufficient amounts of passion (without burning out one’s organization) cast around intelligent vision, mission and purpose
  • an effective strategic plan and tactical roadmap for the organization, plans that grow with the organization, that are referenced frequently and that are not merely relegated to a filing cabinet after they are created
  • a plan that shows how each team member’s strengths, skills, talents and opportunity for personal and professional growth are recognized and embraced
  • an appetite to seize the moment, knowing that if you don’t, someone else will
  • a desire to not leave any opportunity on the table that the competition would gladly snap up
  • strong ethics and morals, especially in the areas of honesty, transparency, respect and personal accountability
  • leaders and team members who have the will to do what it takes to “repent” and to get the organization back on a path to success.

Failure to address one’s “corporate sins” will produce a painful, expensive success at best or apocalyptic failure in a worst-case scenario.

Choosing to be intelligent and proactive in execution allows one to prove another Bible adage to be correct:

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

Actions and not words make it easy for an outside observer to predict an organization’s potential for success or failure.

What actions are you embracing?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


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