People sometimes seem to be all but sneering when they use derivations of opportunism. They’re likely to say things, down their noses, of course, like: “That’s just shameless opportunism.” Or, with a dismissive shake of their heads as they turn to walk away, “Oh, my Gawd, he’s just SO opportunistic.” Especially if our jobs are in marketing or sales, what exactly is wrong with being opportunistic?
If we’re in marketing, our job is to identify market opportunities, right? If we’re in sales, our job is to capitalize on opportunities, is it not? And if we fail to do those things, the failures result in, as the expressions go, lost opportunity and the calculation of opportunity cost. So, why the bad rap for opportunism? How do we get over ourselves?
The real impediment to progress, the real dirty word in every organization, is bureaucracy. Yes. Policies and procedures are necessary. Plans and processes are the stuff of direction, structure, and routine. But responding to opportunity often calls for changing direction. And it often requires breaking out of structure and routine — separating daily management from marketing and sales activities.
When marketing and sales activities aren’t separated from daily operations, it’s hard to distinguish the urgent from the routine. When the breakout activities of marketing and sales aren’t given their own management, review, and approval channels, it’s difficult to achieve objectives, especially in a timely fashion.
To achieve opportunistic objectives, we have to dedicate resources to marketing and sales activities. We have to assign responsibility — and delegate autonomous decision-making authority — for those activities, just as we have to ensure accountability for their success. Then, we have to do it again … and again.
That’s opportunism. Go ahead. Say it. It’s not a dirty word.