THEY SAID IT, I LEARNED FROM IT
“Go fix ‘em”
Many people want to write in red ink. They leave it to the bravest to develop black ink plans that result in actionable strategies. Do you spend your time creating and acting or waiting to edit the plans of others?
Smack dab in the middle of a large-scale IT outsourcing competition, our capture team arrived at the corporate headquarters of a Fortune 500 company that was in the process of selecting a technology partner. A large initial competitive field had been narrowed to three finalists. On this visit, we would be presenting an in-depth look into our capabilities and a tailored solution intended to meet the deal requirements as we understood them.
The corporate Senior Vice-President and CIO timed the meeting to coincide with his semi-annual summit. Key corporate staff, vice-presidents, and directors from around the world were in town. This session would also allow operational executives to make their first assessment of our team.
Based on prior presentations and the relationships we were building with the corporate folks, the deal’s momentum seemed to be swinging our way. Unbeknownst to us, during our travel from the airport to the company’s headquarters, the CIO was being briefed on major software issues in the Australian operation that severely impacted manufacturing. Essentially, a legacy system was causing outages. Expertise with this particular manufacturing ERP system was hard to come by.
Our meeting was scheduled in a large first-floor conference room adjacent to the reception area. As timing would have it, just as the last signature from our team was being recorded on the visitors’ register, one of the IT leaders came roaring out of the conference room to let me know that the CIO was ready to explode. He had exited the internal session to inform me that our meeting might be delayed while they dove deeper into the software problems. His warning, while greatly appreciated, left me with little time to react. We were both stunned to see that the CIO had also left the conference room and was heading my way.
It didn’t take him long to arrive; he was walking double-time. My personal space evaporated in seconds.
An unforeseen request followed simultaneously. Calling me by my last name and now right in my face, his inward seething erupted with a snap.
“I know you’re coming to tell me about your qualifications, but my systems are down. Go fix ’em. Get one of your teams to Australia and fix ’em. That’s all the credentials you’ll ever need. And while you’re at it, clean the muffin off your glasses.”
When the CIO finished making his points, I glanced over at my team all huddled in the corner of the lobby. They sensed the tension and had sidled as far away from me as the walls would permit. Distance didn’t allow them to hear the urgent message that would completely scupper our plans for the day. They were, however, in the perfect position to see the remnants of the muffin the CIO had just eaten splatter against my glasses as he spoke. From their perspective, it must have been comical.
Done with me (for the moment, at least), the CIO hastily returned to the conference room where we would soon be summoned. And with the all-clear apparent, the laughter began. At least five or six reenactments of the muffin spray ensued. Each re-creation was executed more dramatically than its predecessor, and the humor helped ease the tension momentarily.
Ultimately, the team members pulled themselves together enough to address our prospective partner’s problem in Australia. Though unexpectedly presented with a challenge far greater than presenting charts and answering questions, the team came through with a plan — a strategy.
Every enterprise or organization or team has one of those things called a strategy, yet very few understand that a strategy is not what we say; it’s what we do.
It’s how we act, not how we portray our qualifications.
Eventually, success in business is measured through competition. We all compete in a particular place, at a particular time, and in a particular way. Winning is most often the result of the choices made by people in an organization. It is likely not the result of a written game plan. Our capabilities and services and solutions may be worthy of praise, perhaps even spellbinding. However, unless those qualifications are mirrored in the actions of our team, they are not our strategy.
Strategies are actions, not slogans.
We solved the problems in Australia fully aware that we were doing so with neither a written agreement nor a mechanism for us to be paid for the efforts. The CIO proved true to his word. A contract worth nearly $500 million for our services in seven different countries and fourteen domestic locations was secured.
The winning strategy had been an action: “Go fix ‘em.”
Written by Craig Halsey
*They said it, I learned from it is a compilation of lessons learned from the things we’ve heard people say over the course of many lifetimes. It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen. Watch for They Said it, I learned from it every Friday by subscribing to The Weekly Hodl. It’s perfect reading while you enjoy your second breakfast.