Posted tagged ‘objectives’

Rear View Mirror

January 7, 2010

Today, it seems everyone wants to be a “futurist.”  Or maybe that should be, TOMORROW everyone wants to be a futurist.  I never did get verb tenses very well.  In any case, I have decided that yesterday, I am a Pastist.  That’s the opposite of futurist, right?  I mean, it’s easy to prognosticate about what might happen in 5 or 10 years.  Even with Facebook making it so easy to find people you had the good fortune to lose touch with, who’s really gonna track you down to tell you how wrong you were?  But the past, that’s indisputable.  Much tougher!  That’s why there are so many futurists and so few pastists.  In fact, the annoying squiggles under the word itself tell me that Microsoft doesn’t even think it’s a word.  Clearly there’s no higher authority than that!

As a pastist, though, I want to point out three trends from the PAST 10 years  that I find particularly disturbing:

1) Outsourcing – who’s idea was that anyway?  My guess is some CFO under a lot of pressure to find the last semi-legal way to satisfy his or her ravenous shareholders and who had no respect for the real work that IT professionals do.  And more importantly, the irreplaceable intellectual capital (that’s right, as opposed to the “real” capital that the CFO cares so deeply about) that you just glibly shipped outside your company without realizing it’s the same as if you had shredded your precious financial documents from the past 3 filing years.  Oh wait, you did that too!

2) Client/Server – nothing says organization and synergy like taking your corporate data and chopping it up into little pieces, hiding it in all your departments, and then later spend literally millions of dollars trying to reassemble into something meaningful.  Seriously, that’s what most Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing projects are.   Sad attempts to glue back together your mom’s favorite china plate that you dropped on the tile floor.   But don’t worry, once all the pieces are reassembled, you can put them in “the cloud…”

3) SAP – I guess, in many ways, this was the best alternative to client/server.  Buy a single, all-encompassing and hopelessly complex, “best practice”-based combination business process/software/workflow, stop everything else you are doing for 5 years to try to implement it, and then wait for either the promised ROI to magically appear or the phone call to come to the CEO’s office and explain yourself before your exit interview…

What does all this have to do with being a better leader? 

In the next ten years (or if you’re into New Year’s Resolutions, the next 3 months) buck a trend.  Do what your instincts tell you are right, instead of what “everyone else is doing.”  Focus on your customers or, God-forbid, your employees and ignore the folks whispering that if you just put your whole business on an iPhone app, build a Facebook fan page, and Twitter all day long you’re guaranteed to succeed…  Damn futurists…


I hear sirens, don’t you??

April 29, 2009

Allow me to shift gears for a while and talk about sales.   And please indulge me while I quote from a recent article I read in Entrepreneur magazine… [May 2009 issue, for the terminally curious]

“Many entrepreneurs mistakenly think that making the sale has to do with using the consultative selling approach, special listening skills, likeability or any number of popular questioning or closing programs.  Sure, they’re all important aspects of selling.  But the granddaddy of them all – the one factor that guarantees your sales success more than any other and the one method top producers have in common – is a sense of urgency.”

I am going to try hard not to take issue with about 30 different aspects of that opening paragraph and just focus on the overall message and ask a simple question:  “WHOSE urgency??”  If it’s yours, as in:

  • I have to make my number for this quarter or
  • my sales manager is all over me to close something, anything, in the next 30 days or
  • I really think this company needs our product/services/crap

then I would have to strongly disagree with the author.  In his defense, he does go on to suggest that maybe you could focus relentlessly on the product or services division and ensure they get the quote together on time, write a compelling proposal, send their best consultant for demo, whatever.  But then it all falls to pieces when he says, “But the real reason was that I wasn’t leaving him until he did buy from me.”  No kidding.  Have any of you ever had the “pleasure” of having a salesperson tail you like the Feds, or lock you in a room until you relented and bought something from them?  I have good money that says that if you did buy, it was to make them go away and you swore to yourself you’d never buy anything from someone so heavy handed again as long as you lived.

Do yourself a favor.  Let your prospect’s sense of urgency dictate yours.  If they say they won’t be ready to make a decision or move forward for 3 months, LEAVE THEM ALONE for at least two.  If they need a proposal tomorrow, GET THEM ONE TOMORROW.  But whatever you do, don’t try to impose your ‘urgency,’ whatever that is, on them.  Remember:  if your prospect doesn’t hear sirens coming, neither do you…

Opening the blinds

February 20, 2009

I was challenged by one of my devoted readers this week [and I am up to a whopping six of them…], let’s call him Blane Gordon, to come up with a name for serial nine-to-fivers. You know, people who go through the motions at work, spend way too much time looking at the clock and praying for lunch time or the “official” end of the work day or who just feel like every second above 40 hours (or apparently 22 if you live in France…) is somehow a gift they’re reluctantly giving to their ungrateful employers. Good challenge, Blane!

So, as usual, I started with the obvious. Dolly Partons, clock watchers, whatever. But that doesn’t really get at the root of the behavior and the problem, plus it’s completely lame. The problem, first of all, is a lack of one of Peter Senge’s Five Disciplines – Shared Vision. And I could argue that it is the most precious commodity any company over 10 people in size could have. Shared vision means that everyone in an organization can both articulate what everyone is REALLY working for, and even better, they believe in it!

It’s not extraordinarily difficult to have shared vision in a five person company. There’s a good chance there’s some ownership split and that all five had some part in crafting a vision in the first place. But as an organization grows, it’s very easy to have that original vision slowly watered down until you wake up one day and see a frighteningly large number of nine-to-fivers heading for the door at 4:57 PM.

Think about the last time you worked really hard on something with no regard for effort or time consumed in the pursuit. I built a deck with my son and some good friends not long after we moved into our house a few years back, and I worked on it three or four weekends in a row from dawn til dusk and never really thought about anything other than making progress ( and of course, not screwing it up too bad in places people could see – if you’ve seen me use power tools, you’d know why that’s such a big concern…) But I know folks who could spend 16 straight hours sanding a boat getting it ready for sailing, training endless hours for the Boston Marathon, or building a new web site. They have vision. Which I define, in this instance, as a clear objective that they can imagine in their minds and the determination to get there. If you can instill that feeling in yourself or your team at work, you are a great leader indeed!

The opposite of that, of course, is no vision. And so, Blane, I would recommend that when you’re looking for some other term for a nine-to-fiver, try Magoo…