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We Don’t Have Time To Do It Right!!!

by David Brock on July 22nd, 2008

Why do we seem to make the time to re-do things–several times over–correcting mistakes, but we never find the time to do things right in the first place?

I’ve been pre-occupied and frustrated by this issue for several weeks. Two multi-billion dollar organizations I am working with are on similar paths. They are in such a hurry to act that the action itself takes precedence over doing things right.

Both organizations have smart, motivated, well intended people. Both face major challenges in executing even the simplest strategies. It troubles me that such smart people are caught in a trap of executing so stupidly.

Here’s an example: A key project–recruiting new resellers, engaging them and motivating them to sell my client’s products/services is critical to the growth strategy. A program was announced and launched. However, no one had taken the time to develop the detailed plans for fulfilling the program and dealing with the responses.

Here’s where the problems started (you might say they started with the absence of thoughtful planning), but the announcement was a wild success! Within 30 days, we had responses from over 200 organizations wanting to partner with my client. We didn’t know about these response for over 30 days because the person getting the responses 1)Didn’t know what to do with the responses; and 2)Didn’t inform management of the responses.

We found the problem after about 35 days. You might think the problem was fixed and we could declare victory—but that makes too much sense. This company spent lots of time talking about the need to solve the problem, but didn’t focus on actually solving it (the solution had actually been designed and could have been quickly implemented). In the meantime, more responses and requests for partnering came in. At the end of about 50 days, we had 400 pending requests—none of which had been acknowledged.

People panicked and started focusing on symptoms. An email was sent to the 450 respondents, it told them they now had an access code to my client’s partner/reseller website. It neglected to welcome them, it neglected to tell them how to get started, most importantly, it neglected to give them the access code.

30 days has passed since then, frustrated potential partners are not getting responses to their queries, yet the company solved another symptom. It sent out the userids and passwords so that people could access the reseller web site and start learning a little about the products. The only problem though, no one provided these ids and passwords to the webmaster, so all attempts by the resellers to access the web site were rejected with not explanation.

And undoubtedly the story will go on. At each point, before, during, during, during….. I have encouraged the client to get a small task team together and to define a detailed plan, assign responsibilities, and execute the plan. But everyone’s been too busy to sit down.

Now, months later, the client is at this point: They have 100’s of people wanting to be resellers, the majority of whom have not received a response for at least 45 days, in some cases for over 90 days. Those who have received the first response, were confused and frustrated because they were not provided the information to do what was expected. Those who received the second response, see yet again, a failure in execution. Many potential resellers are so frustrated and fed up with their experience, they no longer want to partner with this organization.

I am frustrated, 1) My client has spent countless person hours in activity that has not only not helped resolve a problem, but has made the problem worse. 2} There is a tremendous opportunity cost—people who wanted to be resellers and who could produce significant revenue are now so upset they are no longer interested. 3) All of this could have been avoided with a 2 hour planning session—–but they were too busy to do this.

If this isn’t depressing enough, this isn’t an unusual case. It seems to be more the norm than the exception. Activity trumps thinking. Action overrules planning. We always have time to correct mistakes, we never have the time to do the right thing in the first place.

I started my career many years ago in IBM. At the time I started, there was a simple sign on everyone’s desk. It had one word: Think.

Reflecting back on that sign, that notion has never been more important to effectiveness and producing results than it is now. Every minute we spend thinking or planning can save us hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted effort. It can help us realize millions of dollar in revenue and profitability.

But I’m at a low point—-people are probably too busy to think about this. People just don’t have the time.

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