Excessive Ahabism

The downfall of Captain Ahab, the protagonist of Moby Dick, became his obsession with catching the white whale. There is a fine line between admirable persistence and block-headed tenacity. If you’re the only one left on the barricades, it’s probably time to leave and focus your energy on something else.

We all recognize moments when we were so obsessed with achieving a goal, that somehow along the way we forgot the reason why. This is the definition of a fanatic.

Organizations sometimes fall into this excessive Ahabism trap as well.  These are typical signs that you may be chasing a white whale:

  • The company is so focused on growth that margins rapidly erode and financial results deteriorate. The old joke is that a company may have negative margins, but they make it up with additional volume.
  • Assumptions for key strategic projects are no longer reviewed on a regular basis. Even new people are quickly drawn into action and are no longer curious as to why certain things are done.
  • The organization becomes blind to alternatives. More resources are poured into failing projects, while these resources may have been better used elsewhere. This is called the sunk cost fallacy and is one of the main reasons it’s so difficult to abandon failing projects.

Which white whale do you need to abandon in your organization?

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/ ratpack223

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