Why We Do What We Do

One of the things that fascinates me about business in general is how capital decisions are made.  Many of these are betting the future of the company and I have seen hundreds of decision making processes from "just wing it" to a 2 year study on a 2 million dollar investment.  The interesting aspect of these decisions is that they illustrate the "bet your business" element of directional spending.

Capital decisions are those that generally receive the most attention and most focus of the executive team, as they should.  The one thing that I have noticed over the years of selling and deploying ERP, .com, and outsourcing initiatives is the almost sole focus on the bottom line.  Don't get me wrong that is a HUGE factor.  If you bankrupt the company it won't matter the motives.  That being said, the philosophical reasons are at least as important because, with these systems, how you do business today is NOT how you will be able to business in the future.  Thus process, human element, and the integration of all of those factors to the new business model must be taken into account.  However, most of the time it is the last thing done, scoped and understood.  Let's face it, putting in an ERP system and the upgrades are big projects, and the consultants are expensive.  So the temptation and often reality is that our staff will just suck it up and deal with whatever gets thrown their way.  Historically this has been the largest reason for any initiative failure.

I found the best description of this in "What Go You Here Won't Get You There" by Marshall Goldsmith when he talks about "checking the box".  What has made us successful is "checking the box", completing the task and moving on to the next.  How many of you have a blackberry or other planner with a "to-do" list?  What we don't put on the "to-do" list are usually maintenance items that we must do for long term results.  If corporate America was measured every other year rather than quarterly, we would have significantly different results.  Some may be better, some might not.  If this is a marathon, why do we measure in quarter mile times?  What is the end goal and are we thinking about a company's legacy?  How does this initiative change the company?  IBM is a completely different company from when it was founded and was fundamentally transformed. Unisys and NEC did not make that transition.  Are they still in business?  Yes.  Are they as successful? Depends upon your point of view.  The large initiatives will have profound impacts, but it is how they translate into the day-to-day living that will make the biggest difference.

Is it a marathon or a sprint?

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