The Step Zero Effect

The key to organizational focus and helping those who need what you do is knowing, precisely, what you do well -- and what you don't do well.

Once there was a semiconductor company in financial trouble. Profits were dropping, and the company was losing money every quarter. The pressure was on to stop the bloodletting.

A key executive at the company became convinced that the wireless home audio market was a perfect opportunity because the company already made components that were used in wireless devices. Putting their own product together seemed a logical step. So they set out to take their piece of the market.

And failed.

Why? The executive let the desperation to solve a problem dissolve his focus on Step Zero. They had no expertise in the consumer electronics business, no distribution channels, no appropriate product development skill.

The company lost sight of what it did exceptionally well. It had caught the disease called "critical organizational forgetting," which was the reason it was underperforming in the first place.

It is all too easy to become stuck in the "sounds like a good idea" state that so often happens when we drink too much of own Kool-Aid, so to speak. In this case, company executives believed that because they could do one thing, they could do another thing that seemed nothing more than a simple, logical extension of the other. Their mistake cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Why Knowing What You do Well is So Important

Think of what your organization does well as the lens that focuses you on the value you bring to solving your customer's problems. The success of any organization or company is built on a persistent focus on what it does well.

When you focus on what you do well, you become focused on the types of problems you're best equipped to solve. And we're all in the problem-solving business when it comes to our customers' needs, whether we're running a department, organization, division, or entire company.

And that is the Step Zero? effect.

Michael Knowles, co-author of The Entrepreneur's Concept Assessment Toolbook (available at or helps businesses take what they do best and focus it on success. A Principal in One Straight Line LLC, Michael has over 25 years of experience helping companies create communication strategies help them engage customers, employees, investors, outsourcing partners, and the community.

Michael can be reached at

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