Making a company successful requires, above all, clear thinking.

Unfortunately, there are dozens of management concepts that, far from making success easier, tend to encourage fuzzy ideas and bad decisions.

Here are a few of my favorites. Make sure you're not falling into any of these traps:

1. Consensus

Managers often strive to reach consensus among groups and individuals before any important decision is made. That sounds reasonable (hey, it's the "wisdom of crowds"), but in practice consensus drives weak decisions.

Strong decisions--the ones that create powerful futures--entail cutting away other options, and that generally means disappointing somebody. Consensus favors what's bland over what's innovative, what's safe over what's risky, and the status quo over carpe diem.

2. Customer Focus

If you focus on the customer, you'll be better able to satisfy the customer's needs, right?  Well, not really. "Focusing" on the customer is viewing the situation from your own perspective as a vendor. What's really required is the ability to listen to and absorb what the customer is saying and project yourself into the customer's shoes.

Understanding a customer is not so much a visual act (like using a microscope) as a passive act: It involves rapport, empathy, and imagination.

3. Brainstorming

Getting people together to bounce ideas off one another (in a supportive environment) sounds like a great idea. Until you actually try making it work, that is. Creativity is not a group process, and great ideas do not emerge out of dumb, half-baked ones.

What's more, no matter how supportive the environment, people know they'll be judged on the quality of their contributions. That's why brainstorming usually creates nothing more than a dull drizzle.

4. Rightsizing

Rightsizing is a weasel word intended to make mass firings seem as if they're strategic. The real truth is that big layoffs are always the result of lousy management. Though it's sometimes necessary to make staffing changes, well-run companies with farsighted management never require such drastic surgery. So let's stop using jargon that hides the fact that management failed.

5. Human Resources

The problem with calling humans "resources" is that you just dehumanized them into objects. The term puts human beings conceptually in the same bucket as raw materials on the factory floor or the network wires inside the wall. It ignores the fact that people are complicated and multifaceted, and that getting them to work together requires treating them as individuals rather than as plug-and-play commodities.

6. Leadership

Before he died, the management visionary Peter Drucker pinned the excesses of corporate America on the bloated concept of leadership. He believed businesses have more than enough leaders; what they really need are competent managers who can do the hard work of decision making, planning, and coaching.

In my experience, the typical business leader is like the leader of a marching band--he waves a stick while other people do the work.

Needless to say, feel free to leave a comment if you disagree.

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