Why is it so difficult to divest a business at the right time or to exit a failing project and redirect corporate resources? That question is asked in McKinsey Quarterly
Many factors play a role, from the fact that managers who shepherd an exit often must eliminate their own jobs to the costs that companies incur for layoffs, worker buyouts, and accelerated depreciation. Yet a primary reason is the psychological biases that affect human decision making and lead executives astray when they confront an unsuccessful enterprise or initiative. Such biases routinely cause companies to ignore danger signs, to refrain from adjusting goals in the face of new information, and to throw good money after bad.
The decision-making process for exiting a project, business, or industry has three steps. First, a well-run company routinely assesses whether its products, internal projects, and business units are meeting expectations. If they aren’t, the second step is the difficult decision about whether to shut them down or divest if they can’t be improved. Finally, executives tackle the nitty-gritty details of exiting.
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