Posted by: ThePMOView | March 24, 2015

The Parenting of Corporate America Part 2

I’ve received an interesting request concerning my The Parenting of Corporate America article which I submitted last week to my publicist. It was a request to follow up the article with additional thoughts on that topic. But for those that have not yet read my original article (which you can do here), here is a brief synopsis.

Basically, executives tend to not hear No a lot. This has the possibility of making everything seem like a Yes. So when a Project Manager comes along and starts raising questions, brining up risks, identifying issues, etc. things can get difficult for us. So the objective is to try and find executives that still understand the real world and can work together with project managers in a realistic way. One item the original article did not cover was the concept of ‘not my money’. To illustrate this point, here is a real world example of it in action.

I started and led a successful business in the early 1990’s. What we did was efficiency studies for companies, large and small, in order to improve their profitability. Seems like a slam dunk doesn’t it? Unlike many of us ‘regular’ people, businesses do not really see a reason just to save money. Because our ‘pitch’ was to save a business money, we did not do very well at the start. Why? Simply because the executives did not care ‘just’ about saving money. Even though, on average, we could save a business anywhere from 10% – 25% on its overhead costs. Usually with them doing very little or having a ROI of 12 months or less. Sad but true.

Once we tied saving money with solving problems or pain points for a business, then we really took off. This is because we solved an issue that had been a problem for a business AND they could pay for it out of the savings they achieved. We ended up with over 100 clients in six states by the time the business was sold following this model.

In this discovery process of why companies did not care just about saving monies, we got this response: “Why should I care about just saving the company money? I get paid regardless and a good bonus already. If I leave, I get a nice severance too. Saving money is not going to have much impact on any of this. However, solving my problem AND saving money is something I would always be interested in.”

This attitude is reflected today as well. Failure is not really punished as a CEO that is forced to leave like at JC Penny’s still gets a severance, etc. Plus many news articles about executives that do things in excess using company funds versus personal ones. Unfortunately there are plenty of executives that really do want to do the right things, behave responsibility, etc. Those are the ones that need to have more news article written about.

Otherwise, we get the feedback that a) all executives behave badly and b) if my peers are doing this and nothing bad is happening to them (or only very rarely), then I should do this too. Both of these statements are untrue as there are also stories about executives going to jail, paying large fines, etc. But it seems like the negative stories about excessive behavior stick in our minds more than the ones that get punished. Probably because we too would like the ability to behave in excessive ways at times and not worry about the day after. Unfortunately for the majority of us, behaving excessively even for a day, means tomorrow comes way too soon.

So how do best mitigate these items? One method is using a similar system to the Master/Journeyman system. Basically identify people, either in or out of a company, that can serve as mentors and/or elders to provide the benefits of their experiences. These experiences would not just be focused on running the business but on how negative behavior by their executives impacts the bottom line of their business. This way positive feedback is provided in a peer-to-peer relationship versus boss to employee or visa versa. Maybe then the positive actions of executives will far outweigh the negative ones of the minority.


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