Who cares and So What may sound cynical.
Until you try to answer the questions.
Repeatedly asking these questions is a good dialogue technique to get to the bottom of things. In order to achieve Business Awareness and determine project goals, you need to get to the bottom of things.
Please find a recent sample below … based on an actual discussion with one of our customers.
DR: So what is it that you decided to measure?
CEO: I am keeping tabs on division cost and invoicing value. We noticed that some divisions have an outrageous administrative overhead cost compared to some others. Cost of staff is what weighs most on our balance. People seem reluctant to work with the figures.
DR: So what made you decide to do so?
CEO: Some division managers keep nagging about more staff to help in administration, to get orders in and invoicing out, so we set up a system to monitor the invoiced amounts per division, and plotted this to the overhead cost of administrative tasks. We then share the stats whenever things seem to be out of order, expecting division managers to explain themselves.
DR: Ok, so what does that bring you?
CEO: Well, isn’t that obvious? Then I’d know who to follow-up on, and when we’d need to shift resources.
DR: Ok, so what is happening now?
CEO: Well … it turns out that the division managers always find reasons why numbers deviate, so we will have to add details with respects to customer details, order details, etc. or whatever a division manager will come up with.
DR: Ok, so what if you know those?
CEO: Really? Then we’d spend less money on staff and save cost.
DR: Ok, so the goal is to save cost?
DR: Ok, … so what if you’d be able to save money, what would you then do?
CEO: Well, I’d be able to lower our outstanding credit with the banks, and improve overall cashflow.
DR: So, the bank cares? Who else?
CEO: well, the board and shareholders care as well.
DR: Ok, would you like to do something else after that?
CEO: Hmm, I think I might be able to buy out one of the other shareholders with the extra cash.
DR: So, the goal would be to gain more control?
CEO: not per sé, but one of the family shareholders wants to leave and demands fair value for their share.
I’d have more control as a result, yes.
DR: So, what if you had more control?
CEO: well, we are looking into using the current business for new activities.
DR: Ok, so what?
CEO: I know we have bad retention in staff, mostly because people get bored of doing the same thing over and over.
But that’s how the business has been over the last 50 years. Change is hard.
DR: Yes it is. So what … have you tried in order to achieve change?
CEO: I proposed a plan to the board, but as there is no room to invest, we decided to try a small pilot – that did not work out.
So now we decided to wait until we have financial space to do so.
DR: So Who‘d benefit if you succeeded?
CEO: Well, I’d be able to work out my plans, and I believe employees would find it interesting enough to stay on longer.
DR: So, what if you’d be able to succeed, then what would happen?
CEO: I don’t know, it would be important enough.
DR: Who’d care – important to whom?
CEO: Well, (flustered) first of all, I WOULD – so: to me!
DR: Ok, I see … So, you’d be happy to develop the new activity we spoke about.
DR: Just recapping – for my understanding.
So If you manage to do that, employees would be happier?
& it will likely impact your cost of hiring…
DR: To be able to do so, you’d need to pay back the bank and maybe buy out another shareholder, correct?
DR: So what if … you would explain it to the people involved?
CEO: WHo do you mean?
DR: All of them.
CEO: All of them? How?
DR: Well, instead of monitoring cost as you currently do, what would happen if you’d announce the plan to grow & diversify – for which you need to save cost.
CEO: That’s saying the exact same thing, isn’t it? Why would I want to do that?
DR: Aren’t they all holding some stake in the growth ambitions?
CEO: I mean: how would they react to this, we already tried saving cost before. That did not go down very well.
DR: So what if you could get support by the shareholders, the board, the employees and even the banks for this new plan…
CEO: Yes, I see your point. But I do not think they will like it …
DR: So what if they do not like it?
CEO: Then we’d back at saving cost.
DR: Which is …
CEO: … where we are today, I see your point.
DR: You are welcome