The fact of the matter is opportunity rarely knocks. Conversely, it casts a shadow as it passes by such that you may or may not even be aware of its presence.   -  Photo: Onkel Ramirez

The fact of the matter is opportunity rarely knocks. Conversely, it casts a shadow as it passes by such that you may or may not even be aware of its presence. 

Photo: Onkel Ramirez

We have all heard time and again the phrase "opportunity knocks." 

Some have paraphrased it to suggest that "opportunity knocks but once," suggesting it will pass by unless acted upon and the window of opportunity closes. The phrase itself dates back to England in the 1600s, but has lived on and even been amplified, including by a 1990 movie starring Dana Carvey.

The fact of the matter is opportunity rarely knocks. Conversely, it casts a shadow as it passes by such that you may or may not even be aware of its presence. 

Ray Kroc, the original CEO of McDonald's personified this when he, by happenstance, saw the opportunity that Mac and Dick McDonald had developed in their little restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif. A new model of fast-food restaurants. The opportunity never knocked, the McDonald brothers were wonderfully satisfied and had zero interest in a new business partner. Kroc saw the shadow.

The McDonald brothers were doing what they had always done and it provided them with a comfortable life. Ray Kroc saw a new model. A model that would completely change the industry of fast-food restaurants that were blossoming across the nation.  

 -  Photo: Mikechie Esparagoza

The McDonald brothers were doing what they had always done and it provided them with a comfortable life. Ray Kroc saw a new model. A model that would completely change the industry of fast-food restaurants that were blossoming across the nation. 

Photo: Mikechie Esparagoza

Seizing The Opportunity

In the public sector, many executives are caught up in their "projects," the activities their organization is involved in. Is it on schedule? Is it on budget? Did we fill out the grant forms request properly? Rather than investing the time and energy to understand is there a new model. 

The McDonald brothers were doing what they had always done and it provided them with a comfortable life. Ray Kroc saw a new model. A model that would completely change the industry of fast-food restaurants that were blossoming across the nation. He was playing a different game.

In public transportation, specifically, the success of the organization comes from improved performance. Period. Is customer satisfaction higher? Does the community find value in the public service that we provide? Did the taxpayer find a measurable return on their investment?

Installing a new milkshake machine isn't valuable any more than a new Wi-Fi network on a fleet of buses is. Will the customer find value? Will the community find value? Measurably versus episodically. 

Opportunity will rarely knock. Knowing how to spot value versus distraction in the shadows requires sound strategy, clarity of outcomes, and the courage to drive performance rather than manage projects.   -  Photo: Trinity Metro

Opportunity will rarely knock. Knowing how to spot value versus distraction in the shadows requires sound strategy, clarity of outcomes, and the courage to drive performance rather than manage projects. 

Photo: Trinity Metro

Distinguishing Opportunity from Distraction

There are several key criteria to distinguish opportunity from distraction. 

  • Will it Deliver Desired Results – Am I clear on the outcomes I desire, and will this enhance or accelerate my organization's ability to produce those results?
  • Risk vs Reward – Does this put my core business at risk and is that a good or bad thing? If I succeed what are the likely results vs the damage if I fail?
  • Does it Distinguish – If everyone else in my industry is doing it, then how does it distinguish what I do?
  • Capacity to Engage – Do I have, or do I need, to create the capacity on my team and funding resources to invest in this opportunity?

Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, famously said: "What we decided not to do was every bit as important as what we decided to do." Apple didn't chase projects.

Darwin Smith, former CEO of Kimberley-Clark, was derided by Wall Street when he famously sold off their core business to invest more heavily in emerging technology and outperformed the market by four times. Kimberley-Clark didn't protect what had made them.

Steve Sasson, a 24-year-old engineer at Eastman Kodak invented digital photography, only to be told by the C-Suite "not to tell anyone."  The drive to innovate that created Kodak had evaporated.

Opportunity will rarely knock. Knowing how to spot value versus distraction in the shadows requires sound strategy, clarity of outcomes, and the courage to drive performance rather than manage projects. 

About the author
Mark R. Aesch

Mark R. Aesch

CEO, TransPro Consulting

Mark Aesch is CEO/Founder of TransPro

View Bio
0 Comments