Customer Loyalty Cuts Both Ways
One of the greatest speakers I ever heard was the peripatetic business guru Tom Peters. In one hour, he raced around the room throwing out myriad ideas, management techniques, secrets and rules. He persuaded me that Air Force Lt. Col. John Boyd changed war and was the greatest strategist in 1,000 years. The fighter pilot invented the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act—and then repeat the process). The OODA concept is just as applicable to business as it is to war.
After hearing Peters, I bought Robert Coram’s biography, “Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War." Boyd’s shtick was developing lightweight fighters at the Pentagon; the lighter the fighter, the more maneuverable it is, which gives it the advantage in a dogfight.
When Boyd got clearance to send out RFPs on his new, lightweight F-16 fighter, various Pentagon higher-ups insisted the plans be revised to include a bunch of high-tech gizmos. These meant more weight, less performance, more money and a delay getting started. Boyd spent much of his time shooting down these ideas.
If the alterations had been added, the beautiful, efficient fighting machine Boyd envisioned would've been born a dinosaur.
Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) once opined that the dinosaur became extinct because its body was so huge and its head so small that even though it ate all the time, it starved to death.
Unlike Boyd’s F-16, the F-22 [see IN THE NEWS at right] became so unwieldy and expensive that Congress was persuaded it was a dinosaur and said the hell with it.
Same thing with the new fleet of 28 presidential helicopters, which were loaded with so many do-dads and tchotchkes that the final cost was to be $400 million a copy—more money (adjusted for inflation) than the 747 that is Air Force One. Candidates Obama and McCain agreed that the iconic Marine One helicopter would work just fine, and the program was scrapped.