From the Ask Tom mailbag –
Last night, I got out of the office at 9:45p. I don’t know what it is. This has been going on for the past three weeks. On Monday, things don’t look so bad, but come Thursday and Friday, the work just seems to pile up. I worked the last three Saturdays and last week, had to come in on Sunday. Missed the football game.
If I had known ahead of time, I could delegate some of the work out and it would already be done. But I don’t know about some of this stuff until it’s too late, or don’t realize how long it is really going to take. All of sudden, the pile is stacked up and everyone has gone home. The work’s gotta get done.
I don’t believe you. If you sat down and thought about it, almost all of your work is predictable, you just don’t think about it. You don’t delegate out, because you like working under the gun. Here’s the thing. You think you will get sympathy from me for all your hard work, but the just dessert for hard work is more hard work. You have to stop working harder and start working differently. -Tom
“I don’t care,” Roberto insisted.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I don’t care if that is what the boss wants. It’s a stupid idea. And my role is not to do stupid shit.”
“Call it what you want. CEOs run fast, sometimes making a mess. That’s why I have a job, to clean up the mess they call strategy. Somebody has to execute. That’s me.”
Andrew was still upset. The contract was lost and there was nothing he could do about it. He had lost his appeal with the purchasing agent, the procurement manager and the director of operations.
“We did everything by the book,” he said. “This is the way we have earned all of our major contracts. Our reputation is stellar. I can’t believe this is happening.”
“You got sucker-punched,” I observed.
“What?” Andrew replied.
“Sucker-punched,” I repeated. “We often think that our future success lies in the fact that we had one small string of successes in the past. We think that the curve in front of us continues upward without hesitation. We do not realize that, as we continue to do things the way we have always done, the world subtly changes. The nuances of the deal creep up, new players enter the game without detection, and suddenly we are on our ass.” Andrew’s face showed no emotion on the outside, but his eyes betrayed a growing realization.
“There is good news, though,” I continued. “This is not a game. This is life. In a game, there are few second chances. The final period has an ending, even overtime is sudden death.
“In life, in business, there are lots of second chances and the final period can be extended. But only if you stop thinking about your past success and start thinking about what has changed around you.”
“You improved your quality, so your warranty program became a competitive advantage instead of a liability. Your lead time was down to four weeks. You lowered your cost structure. Your output and unit profit was consistent and predictable, systems focus. And then the rug got pulled out?” I asked.
“Yes,” Arianne reluctantly explained. “Everything, up to now had been internally focused. Efficiency, pace, quality. Then, the market fell out. Our customers would shrug their shoulders and buy from someone else. At first we thought they didn’t understand what a quality product we had. We even sent out our engineers with our sales people to explain why our product was more durable, lower cost and could be delivered faster. But, it was us who didn’t understand.”
“What do you mean?” I quizzed.
“We had been so internally focused that we didn’t notice a shift in the market. Our market moved. Our product was fine, but our market wanted something different. Our competitor smoked us. They had re-tooled a number of features based on user-feedback. We had no clue.”
I nodded my head, “Market responsive.”
“Yes,” Arianne confirmed. “It cost us a million dollars in stagnant inventory and months of development time to catch up. We had been so internally focused, we almost lost the ship.”