That Old (Dusty) Credenza

One of our past clients said something that really stuck with me, becoming more relevant as the years have gone by.

The setting is at one of our executive clients’ offices. We are at a project briefing, in which one of our senior partners was presenting the findings from a recent consulting assignment in which we had diagnosed the performance of his organization.

The executive stops the conversation abruptly. Sitting at his desk, in a beautifully appointed office, this rather seasoned executive leaded back in his chair and points to this lavish mahogany credenza behind him. He injects these words, in a rather soft but sarcastic manner: “This credenza has just about every answer for how to improve my performance”. As he opened the cabinet, there’re these bulging shelves with report after report from consultants. We recognize many of them from their logos and report cover style. Many are ours from years past. He continues: “The last thing I need are more answers. What I need to know is how to put all this into action !”

Getting the report off the bookshelf and into action is a dilemma for many of us performance managers. We don’t need someone to “borrow our watch and tell us what time it is” anymore. We know what time it is. What we need is to improve the effectiveness of our implementation, capturing and releasing the value of the plethora of findings and recommendations we’ve acquired over the years.

Once, I decided to do a little survey of my own. I looked at the performance of about twenty companies, each of whom were implementing most of the same business practices. If business practices were all that mattered, you would expect performance results to be similar. But not only were performance levels different, they were, in many cases, different by orders of magnitude. It wasn’t the business practices, per se, that made the difference. It was the implementation that mattered. Specifically, how the business practice was implemented and integrated into the organization’s core processes.

It’s like implementing that fancy new voice recognition technology. Two companies can implement the technology flawlessly. But one company implements it on top of their existing legacy process, which has a very complicated and “layered” menu that doesn’t exactly match today’s customer inquiry patterns. The other has spent time working out its process, focused singularly on maximizing “first call resolution” performance. In fact, for them, the voice recognition is just a finishing touch on a process that , even without it, would generate significant improvement over previous performance levels. Clearly the latter would show up as a better performer despite the fact that both companies had introduced the same exact technology.

Perhaps this is an overly simplified example, but I use it to make a point. Anytime you are told about a technology or practice that is considered “leading edge”, remember that it’s only leading edge FOR YOU if it has a noticeable impact on YOUR performance. And for that to happen, you need to look at every practice in the context of where you are in your business processes, organizational design, and management philosophy. Give your implementation team a specific target- one that goes well beyond simply project completion. Give them a business “results” target instead. By doing this, you’ll change the entire dynamic of the implementation, often getting the focus where it needs to be for the business practice to be successful.

So stop adding to that old credenza, and start harvesting the contents of what’s inside. And do it with a renewed focus of what a successful implementation looks like.


Author: Bob Champagne is Managing Partner of onVector Consulting Group, a privately held international management consulting organization specializing in the design and deployment of Performance Management tools, systems, and solutions. Bob has over 25 years of Performance Management experience and has consulted with hundreds of companies across numerous industries and geographies. Bob can be contacted at

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