The Sure Thing

Pain and despair

Imagine you run a servicing centre. You have a staff of 100 who fill in forms to order things for customers.

  • Maybe they process applications
  • Maybe they fill in patient’s details
  • Maybe they capture the details of car repairs

You get the gist of it… Lots of people, lots of information and lots of screw ups.  Mis-filled forms that cause a whole host of mishaps, misunderstandings and missed opportunities.

Your inability to get your staff to fill in their forms correctly is costing your organisation millions and everybody from the CEO downwards is busily raining pain and misery down on you, the poor, underpaid, overworked, departmental head.

You have tried everything

But your staff just can’t do the job

Nothing has worked and your staff are still messing up the forms with alarming regularity

The sure thing

One day a sales man walks into your office with an IT solution, the perfect digital fix.  It will detect mistakes at source, automatically correct them and give your staff members instant feedback.

All your problems disappear in one fell swoop.

All this for a single 7 figure investment, some consultancy to set it up (and a yearly licence cost).

A sure thing, an in-year payback for a strategic investment.

You’d be a fool not to buy it.

Not with my money

There is an alternative…

Spend time on the shop floor with your staff and customers to really understand the issue:

  • Perhaps you should simplify the products
  • Perhaps you should get rid of the forms
  • Perhaps you should change the staffing pattern
  • Perhaps you should colour code the instructions
  • Perhaps you should change the seating arrangement
  • Perhaps you should modify the routing pattern
  • Perhaps you should change your opening hours
  • Perhaps you should ask somebody to write that macro
  • Perhaps you should get rid of the sales incentive

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

Only when you really understand the problem can you really specify the solution.

When was the last time you saw a “sure thing” that worked? Maybe your strategic investment is destined to become something else.

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White Elephant

Read another opinion

Image by Eva Luedin


  1. James,

    The first half of your post reminded me of my 9 year old. I scratch my head daily. I have come to the same conclusion as you, though… I need to get to the root of the problem before I figure out how I’m going to make any progress with him.

    I couldn’t agree more… if we don’t get at the root cause, we will continue to deal with the same issues over and over again.

    Annette :-)

  2. Nick Velissarides says:

    “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

    ― Albert Einstein

  3. Hello James,

    But the digital fix is so painless.

    What self respecting status conscious manager spends time on the shop floor with the shop floor types? What do those guys know anyway? The folks with the brains are sitting at HQ. And in the large ‘strategy’ consultancies.

    Given the choice, we managers choose not to get our hands dirty by actually working at the coalface. Powerpoints, Excel sheets, and Word documents are so much cleaner.

    All the best

  4. James,
    Here’s a question that I always find is a great test of a manager’s/leader’s focus:
    “What have you done today to make the life of your team easier?”


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