Point to Ponder: Things That Matter Most Shouldn’t Be Put At the Mercy of Things That Matter Least.
Story Line: A few days ago, while talking to some old friends about our days in the corporate kingdom, the memories of some great kingdoms that are no longer in existence came up. There was a common theme to their demise; losing focus on the core things that keep business great (ex: Product, Service Excellence) and spending too much resources on sideline things (ex: Logos, External Org Awards, Slogans, Program of the Year, …… ). Listening to that, the memories of Nero, the last Roman Emperor of Julio-Claudian dynasty came to my mind.
Nero Claudius Caesar, the ruthless Emperor had a mad passion for music, art and sports. He notoriously ignored many essential needs for the country and focused his energy and attention on a crazy passion for music and art to make Rome great. He eliminated people who brought him in power, refused to follow sound advice from well-meaning people and purged the ones who did not align with his way of thinking.
There is a story that he was on the roof of his palace during The Great Fire of Rome, dressed in a theatrical costume singing the Greek epic “The Sack of Ilium.” Many citizens believed that the fire that destroyed most of Rome was started by Nero's orders to clear land for expanding his palace and scope up against it. Nero blamed senators for not controlling people and then deflected any negative attention by blaming a religious sect of Christian worshippers. He ordered brutal persecutions.
In addition, Nero exhausted the Roman treasury by rebuilding the city around his palace complex. Having solved none of the major problems of the country, he was declared Public Enemy #1 but committed suicide before the people could get to him.
Reflection: When I assumed the responsibility for an important supply chain organization, I asked my predecessor for some advice. One of the most important things he said was “Your No 1 job is to prevent supply problems to factories (main customers). If customers are happy, you will have a lot of time and support to do all kinds of other things for your people and organization. (even the types of things like music and dancing that Nero had asked of his senate).”
Following that advice made all the difference.
When Nero is confronted by the Senate. (Scene from another movie).