The Frankenstein Monster – A Business Parable

Administrative Infrastructure

“The Continuum from Meatball Surgery to Rocket Science”

My son began watching “The Simpsons” when he was in his teens. Although I wasn’t particularly interested in cartoons at that time in my life I decided that I should check out what he was watching to maintain my street-cred. After adjusting to the rather edgier modern cartoon content – Bugs Bunny it wasn’t! – I rather enjoyed the show and my boy and I had some great laughs.

As with many things in life, I was surprised to find some pithy business strategy in the content of the show.  Allow me to explain:

Mr. Burns, Smithers and the Frankenstein Monster

The Simpsons had an annual Halloween themed episode that had the ghouls, ghosts and goblins played by the regular cast of characters. One year Dr. Frankenstein was played by the nefarious Mr. Burns. The lab assistant was played by the sniveling, sycophantic brown-noser Smithers and the Monster played himself. During the scene where the diabolical duo is trying to vivify the beast a frustrated Mr. Burns cries out to his aide, “This isn’t rocket science, Smithers! It’s brain surgery!”

It’s Not Rocket Science – “You may be closer than you think!”

So, a new management theory is born! I see it time after time. Businesses that are led by able entrepreneurs struggle through the startup stage, to some financial strength and then to relative success. Even so, many still fight with issues related to business processes as they succeed. It often seems like a glass ceiling is preventing the organization from thriving.

Many organizations that are struggling are NOT having a problem with their core business competencies. In other words, the elements of the business that enabled the organization to pass from startup to competitive or operational viability are already in place. Whether offering the best product or service, the business has separated itself in the market to achieve some measure of success. At this point, these businesses know how to make money, stay ahead of the competition and satisfy their customers. For now…

The good news is that if the success I describe has been achieved to this point elements needed to break through this glass ceiling to world-class success may be closer than you think.

Administrative Infrastructure

Many such businesses suffer from a lack of Administrative Infrastructure. This term speaks of laying the underlying foundation or basic framework of long-term organizational health. However, such foundations are not laid randomly, without foresight, or cost.

Here’s a short list of essential elements of Administrative Infrastructure, along with some key questions to ask regarding each:

  • Financial – Are the organization’s finances transparent, meaningful and useful in times of rapid and needed change?
  • Sales & Marketing – Are the economics of the company secure for the long-term to stay ahead of the competition?
  • Human Resources – Does the organization have a human resources strategy to find the best people, talents and competencies for continued growth?
  • Organizational – Does leadership have a plan to maintain the stability, support and flexibility needed by the business to meet inevitable challenges successfully?

Most successful business leaders don’t have the time or inclination to get their Masters in Business Administration, nor do they need to. It is likely that the key elements of Administrative Infrastructure are obtainable and within reach. In my experience, many businesses can benefit quickly and effectively by tweaking systems that are in place and having a strategy for filling in gaps as needed.

I’ve seen it again and again throughout my career. Businesses that are in a state of administrative flux are often ready to rise from the laboratory table with a little guidance. It’s not Rocket Science or Brain Surgery…Thankfully!

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