The Root Canal Approach to Business

If you only focus on cost cutting, you have embraced the root canal approach to business. How then can you save money, while at the same time move vigorously towards your most important goals? A helpful approach is to make use of the concept of organizational energy: The limited power for any organization to get important things done. The figure below—The MasterMind Approach to Saving Money—describes the relationship between organizational energy and impact on the business of any cost cutting initiative.

Figure: The MasterMind approach to saving money

Casual Losses

If we hardly make use of organizational energy and hardly create any impact, we are dealing with casual losses. For example, trying to buy cheaper pencils. It’s not worth the trouble and any activities in this area should immediately be abandoned. 

Blood Letting

If we use a lot of organizational energy, but don’t achieve big results, we are dealing with blood letting: This is the ancient belief that bleeding yourself will speed up recovery of your sick body. Of course it doesn’t. A well-known business example of this superstitious belief are blanket corporate travel restrictions: You typically save a smallish amount of money, yet it creates enormous hassle and drains massive amounts of organizational energy. Stop it (unless your strategic approach is to shrink to greatness and want to become a small, local player…)

Business Hygiene

If we achieve big results, while using a low amount of organizational energy, we have entered the realm of business hygiene. This means a continuous focus to discover significant release of monetary resources, while spending little energy. Think of global contracts for expensive resources, like lease cars. It’s an attractive approach and should therefore be a constant focus for business leaders.

Strategic Resource Management

Finally, sometimes we can only achieve big results by spending a huge amount of organizational resources. This is strategic resource management and only makes sense if the big savings serve a big strategic goal. An example is to invest in a new technology to create a better and cheaper product to ensure market dominance in the future.    

This leaves us with three questions. In moments when cost cutting is on the table:

  1. Where does your organization spend most of its resources to save money? 
  2. Where should your organization spend most of its resources to save money?
  3. What will you do differently to avoid the root canal approach to business and embrace The MasterMind Approach to Saving Money instead?

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/Milan Markovic


C Hilton
August 23, 2019 at 4:30 am

I am at the end of my engineering career and enjoying new opportunities in volunteer organizations to help people lift and grow themselves and those around them. The great concepts and practices in your books work great in a “faster, better, cheaper” large manufacturing and engineering role. I am struggling to make the intellectual bridge between achieving “faster, better, cheaper” and now seeking to achieve, much much more broadly, the “soft” goals of developing kindness, spiritual insight, selfless love, altruism. Have you thought about how to apply your high performance insights to this different world?

December 10, 2021 at 3:51 pm

Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and finally got the
bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Austin Tx!
Just wanted to say keep up the good job! every

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