"Will someone please make a decision" (add exclamation marks as needed)

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

When I say "Will someone please make a decision", I am by no means suggesting that you should defer your destiny to someone else, diminish the need to take "the bull by the horns", not take ownership for your life, or any other pithy saying that reminds us it's our life - Our responsibility to grab on tightly and enjoy with gusto!

It's more directed to that somewhat important saying that reminds us that, "To know how to be a good leader, you need to know how to be a good follower". 

As someone who has been on both sides of this fence, I want to take a moment and offer a thought or two from the perspective of the follower... you know, the one asked to make it happen or follow the grand plan; the one who is looking to their leader to set a direction that can be executed on. And this brings us back to that simple request, "Will someone please make a decision"; admittedly sometimes also taking the form of a frazzled request, a statement, an urgent statement, a strongly worded statement or a wild eyed demand.

Where does this request come from? The simple answer is, "Nothing can get done without a decision being made"

For a follower (a doer, an executor, the fix it guy), this makes "needing a decision" very high on the list for getting things done; arguably its number one. There is an understanding that a process is required for decision making, that not all decisions are easy ones, and some decisions require time to make. However, this is not the reason you hear the words "will someone please make a decision" uttered. (With the appropriate number of exclamation marks added.)

In my experience, the reason for uttering these famous words is more often than not a result of (or combination of) the following:

  • There is no defined owner for the decision.
  • The decision making process has become more important than the actual decision.
  • The request for more information is never ending.
  • "Decision making" is viewed in absolute terms of right or wrong and not one of "degrees".
  • The culture does not encourage risk, empowerment or ownership.
  • There just seems to be too many people involved.
  • Lack of communication and transparency regarding what is happening.
  • There is a belief of "being safe", as you can't be wrong if you do not make a decision.

All these points made from the perspective of a "follower".

And this weaves us back to the saying, "To know how to be a good leader, you need to know how to be a good follower".  As a leader, appreciating the perspective of the follower, you can work to remove those barriers that are impacting your team's ability to get things done.

So with that said, every so often take a trip down memory lane and remember those times you found yourself uttering the words "will someone please make a decision" with flair... then ask yourself, "Is there someone on my team who may be saying the same thing?" If so, remember you can make some changes regarding that... after all you are the leader.

And if you are a follower... soon enough you may find yourself as the leader, so make sure you are taking good notes.


Optimizing execution - When ideas and operating systems collide.

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

On more than one occasion I have seen sales and marketing ideas, sometimes very good ones, gather support and momentum... and then - SCREEEEECH, CRASH... BIG FIERY EXPLOSION! 

Why would that happen you ask?

These "fiery instances" came about because the idea simply could not be accommodated by the operating systems that are being used to manage the business... the idea could not be automated, "systematized" or streamlined with the current operating system(s); never to get off the ground... or if it does, it's a pale version of the original idea.

I will be the first one to say that systems should not dictate what you do, as that is the job of the customer and the market... however, it is important to understand your available systems and not execute on ideas that are misaligned with the capabilities of your systems - When you play chess, no mater how much you want the bishop to go side ways, it can only go diagonally; much like the systems you work with, their capabilities make up the rules of the game and dictate how you have to play. YOU NEED TO LEARN THE RULES.

RULE #1: It is imperative that you understand what your ERP, CRM and online systems can and cannot do; you definitely need an in-depth working knowledge of these systems within your functional area, as well as a broad understanding of the overall system... everything is so interrelated. Demand as much system training as you can get, or at the very least, ask where you can find the "manuals".

RULE #2: Develop a system process map for how your idea(s) will be executed before you move to build the support and momentum that will fuel your execution. If in any of the process you find the need for manual involvement, this is a strong indicator that a possible BIG FIERY EXPLOSION is in your future - This will also highlight system shortfalls that need to be addressed to serve your market and customer more effectively.

RULE #3: If you hear the phrase "they will figure out how to make it work" used in the context of your available systems, this is a big red flag. Big systems can be used by those who execute... they cannot be fixed by them. This also conjures up images of the loveable Business Gnome, and you know the mischief they can get into. 

RULE #4: Systems can never be blamed for why your idea "did not" work... that is on you. They however can be blamed for why your idea "will not" work... refer back to Rule #1 & #2. Align with your "operation" partners; escalate customer and revenue limiting issues regarding your current systems; bring data, and make people listen.

If you have ever experienced a SCREEEEECH, CRASH and BIG FIERY EXPLOSION, you will know they can be very, very messy situations to clean up - Probably the biggest consideration for the above rules.


Ideas, prototypes and Murphy's law...

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

To this day I remember this short engagement between a sales professional and a "hardened" General Manager (hGM)... it went something like this - 

Sales Professional: "I think we need to do this... I would do it this way... It would be great for the company and I know people who could help us get it done."

hGM: "Great idea... You have my support to do it. Let me know if you need anything."

Sales Professional: "Really? Great... I'm going to do it."

There was some more enthusiastic discussion about the idea and then the sales professional moved off to another discussion.

hGM: "He will never do it you know"

I looked at the hardened General Manager and sipped my wine. He was right, the sales professional never did what he was so enthusiastic about. His idea never happened... either because he had no intention to do more than talk about it (as the hGM surmised) or maybe, he simply didn't know how to bring it to life. 

An idea, in the end, is just "cocktail conversation with a hGM" until you are able to bring action or tangibility to it and make it physically real. So what does it take to bring an idea to life?

Well in my experience you need...

a Time and Event Schedule To Make IT Happen (TESTMITH): This is a detailed calendar of events broken into weekly blocks that outline all the activities needed to progressively build your idea and make something tangible with it. It usually starts with a completion date in mind and then you work backwards identifying all the activities needed to develop something real. The order of these activities need to be reviewed as some activities build upon others, and so forth; my experience is bringing ideas to life is an iterative process. There is an important mechanism that comes with the TESTMITH - A weekly review, as well as creating a simple dashboard using GREEN for complete, YELLOW for in progress and RED for not started. This makes it easy to map your progress, communicate and identify future roadblocks. Plus it's very colourful.

To build a Prototype: Prototypes are exciting for a number of reasons!

  • Your idea is now real... you can touch it, you can see it, and more importantly, so can others. 
  • You have insight into what is needed to build it, the challenges, and what will be needed to build more (aspects of scale up).
  • You now have the first iteration that all other improved versions will be build from.  
  • They help show progress, as some prototypes are needed for the next activity in your TESTMITH.

Resources: Approach all of this with the assumption that resources are slim; more often than not it will be you, and if lucky, a trusted few to make it happen. And you will have you roll up your own sleeves, as there is not much opportunity to delegate here; people and processes are not used to making small quantities or "one offs". More often than not you will have to be creative with material and the resources needed to "build it". It is even tougher when money is in short supply -  Creativity, inventiveness and resourcefulness come in handy.

And this brings it us to Murphy's law, which states, and I quote, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." 

No mater how well you have planned, reviewed and controlled, something inevitably comes along and throws a wrench in your plans. Just imagine working on 20 prototype kits, where each prototype has over 50 pieces and each needs a label... now imagine, spending a day hand labelling all those pieces just to come back the following day to find a majority of the labels were peeling away. Five days later, more labelling and testing, it turns out the room was much too dry to let the glue on the label cure properly. Who would have thought? I sure hadn't when I started.  

Business literature is filled with characteristics of the human condition that help us deal with Murphy's Law and make our ideas real - Persistence, resilience, courage, conviction, determination, belief, sacrifice, etc. It is here that all ideas become real, and everything else is just "process".

So when Murphy's law strikes and the labels fall off, dig deep into the human condition.