After a conversation with a friend, I wondered why corporate illnesses get to a death march? It is the eleventh hour for many companies and they are asking; "how could these things happen?" Who was asleep at the switch? Why did we let ourselves go to this depth? How do our companies get sick and die, come close to death or suffer protracted illness? Why didn't someone let us know there was a cure? Were we not listening?
If someone was allowed to interview the company managers and “Cs” they may have seen they were not doing things to prepare for illness or prevent it from becoming terminal.
Now the real work begins to salvage, if possible, the organization which was so thoughtfully designed, developed, and at a point, well managed.
I think it was a gradual, unnoticeable decline in systems and processes that snowballed into dysfunctional. Enterprise software systems were said to be too difficult to use. Alternate systems, like spreadsheets and databases, were devised to “simplify” enterprise processes. Then those systems became too laborious to manage and were made into even “simpler” enterprise systems so the work could get out and look and feel like “something” was getting done. All the while the real “enterprise software system” was orphaned to menial tasks. When it came time for the owners to demand results, the enterprise software systems and people could not deliver.
In short, they went from an enterprise software system specifically designed to enable paperless and lean operations and processes to a paper only system because the “enterprise software system” had no accurate, reliable knowledge to support business operations. So they devised a paper system which was only validating a single piece of paper at a time, and not getting into the “enterprise software system”. If it was not in front of someone’s eyes, it did not exist. The real shortcoming is none of the alternate systems linked to each other, the “enterprise software system” or anything else. Departmental silos and islands of information is now their “system”. This Resulted in a “blind system” which is costly, incomplete, and unreliable, cannot support business and will not pass audit.
The moral of the story is don’t dumb down your enterprise software systems in the hope of saving money or time. You just might be sacrificing your entire business. Make the systems work and work to make the systems.
Let’s make a few points on systems and processes:
- We trusted and believed in people to be honest and do a good job.
- We have systems in place to secure the data and analysis to tell us we are doing well.
- We believed we can overcome anything and are invincible.
- We ignored symptoms pointing to a problem, but we don’t have time to address them.
- We saw a young business full of strength that does not get sick.
- We made a lot of money and the systems weren’t so important because life was good.
- We had a “team” who understood the business.
- Owners did not require auditing because trusted employees were at work.
- When hard times hit, we trusted the results, and thought the systems were in place and working.
- When we are going broke, but thought revenue was still coming from new sales even though older products were waning.
- When the company “Cs” asked for proof of revenue, costs/expenses, deposits/payments (balance sheet and income statement) they were inaccurate and did not represent what they are told.
- When heads rolled and new ones were brought in, there is a real mess.
- No one can fix the mess because it is too far gone.
- Should they start over with a new system or try to fix the old one that got orphaned?
- What is the cost to repair the old system or purchase a new system?
- If revenues are down, they can’t afford the quality system they have and will be forced to take on a poor replacement.
So, what’s the company to do?
Here is a therapy that involves proactive management, hands on and out of the box thinking.
- NEVER let the system get out of your hands.
- NEVER allow your staff to “tell” you everything is okay.
- NEVER leave the till open for hands to get in without knowing about it.
- NEVER let the paymaster be the banker.
- NEVER take another’s word for your business success or failure.
- ALWAYS demand scheduled and unscheduled internal and external audits and business analysis.
- ALWAYS know your systems, personally, so no one can take advantage of you.
- ALWAYS keep an eye on the bank.
- ALWAYS manage from top down and demand loyalty and compliance.
- ALWAYS trust but verify all systems, processes, people and technologies.
Your business is yours’ if you are “Cs” then it is your “duty” to perform. If you are in the warehouse or the janitor, your “duty” is to perform. The company needs everyone to be their best and deliver against the company plans and help grow and manage their part. If you are a contractor it is your “duty” to deliver the company the best you can.
Everyone in the “employ” of the company must align to the company personality and performance and quality guidelines. Don’t settle for less.