My in-laws were in town this past weekend, escaping the Wisconsin snowstorms for a few sunny days in Silicon Valley. Hanging out with them was a welcome break from all the usual nonsense we call day-to-day life.
It got me thinking about how infrequently we take a step back from our gadget-filled, workaholic lives to gain some perspective. How often do you ask yourself if you like what you're doing, if you're on the right track, or if you should be doing anything differently?
The same goes for companies. After all, companies are made up of people. Executives and directors are people. How often do they step back and assess the company's technology, products and services, and strategy with respect to the competition?
If you think that's a good question, then here's another: Why bother? After all, isn't that just opening up a can of worms, upsetting the applecart? Well, not exactly.
You can only plod along, putting one foot in front of the other, for so long before external conditions change or something happens to make you wonder if you shouldn't be heading somewhere else or doing things differently to get there.
Sometimes you wake up after a couple of decades of hard work and decide you need a breather. Maybe you're not getting the same fulfillment from your career you got years before. Or perhaps you've been successful and there's something new and different you've always wanted to try and never had the opportunity or the guts.
Companies milk a business model until someday revenue growth begins to decline or margins begin to shrink. You know, stuff happens. The competitive landscape is never static, especially not in the technology world. That's when companies should ask themselves some penetrating questions and consider some changes.
Some say that point may already be too late, that people and companies should be asking themselves those deep questions periodically all along. Who knows?
The bottom line is that, when things change, your strategy and plans may need to change too. And to do that, you need perspective. Perspective is important. It's the same for people and companies.
Unfortunately, the status quo is the path of least resistance. As a result, reassessment and change - whether it's about life or corporate strategy - isn't easy and it doesn't happen by itself. It requires honest answers to difficult questions. It requires objectivity. It requires commitment and hard work.
Sure it's tough, but the alternative is far worse.
For individuals, it's waking up one day and realizing you're miserable, filled with regret, and it's too late to do anything about it.
For executives or boards of directors, it's waking up and realizing you've run your company into the ground and disappointed thousands of employees, customers, vendors and shareholders.
In both cases, the result can be tragic. Perhaps what's most tragic is that, in both cases, the result can be prevented.
So once in a while, get some perspective. Just to be on the safe side, do it whether you need to or not. Or you may fall prey to a saying my father-in-law's stepfather - Mahalio Peric - was fond of saying: "Too soon old, too late smart."