Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Sherm Lewis Report

A nobody wins situation

Ok so you are a CEO.

Your business is not performing as well as you expected. Revenues, operating margins, customer satisfaction and most importantly your record of wins in your marketplace are all down and all below forecast. Your shareholders are revolting.

You thought it was your business development people so you put the screws to them. Turns out they were already working so hard to make your insane numbers that they were booking bad contracts. So you fire a few of them to make a point of some sort and move on.

You being the boss are naturally and obviously not the problem and your top veep has a solid record of supporting your agenda so it cannot be him because if it were him then it would be you and then it starts to get messy.

The media and every goddamn chirper thinks he knows the solution but you cannot even consider unsolicited outside advice, to do so would be a tacit admission that you do not have the strategic vision to run the business, after all it was you that paid eight hundred million dollars for it and besides you made teh billions, boy that seems like a long time ago doesn't it.

You are beginning to think the senior and middle managers are not up to the task of competing in the marketspace, but you cannot kick open doors and start taking names because there is a morale issue, as you stroke your Persian you wonder who the fuck came up with morale, people should just be glad they have a job and GET. THE FUCK. ON WITH WINNING.

So you float the idea of bringing in a consultant to review efficiency and operations. Your top veep points out that we did this already, twice, and it did not exactly work out either time but you shoot him 'the look' and he starts to fidget with his vest and sits down. Damn you love this guy, has it really been ten years?

Your top veep makes the calls and gets a guy he knows on the horn. You talk with him and he seems qualified but not as interesting as the betrayal scene in Valkyrie which you are pretty sure he can hear on the other end but it does not really bother you cause it is a totally awesome movie and besides this guy will be working for you anyway so it is a lots more important that he listens to you more than you listen to him.

Something something never actually worked together before, something something never really called plays myself, you'll pay me how much? Done. And it's a done deal.

The guy arrives and even though you don't really know what it is he is going to do, you start him doing it. Collecting folders, compiling reports, thumbing through sheafs, spending a lot of time marking up papers with a pen and post-it flags, talking on the phone. From the word go he really seems like a guy that can do this job, whatever the job is actually going to turn out to be.

And so you feel better for a while.

A few weeks later you decide to come up out of the dungeon, change out of your leathers and see how things are going topside. Your business has not been a lot more successful, compiling a record of [REDACTED] since bringing on the consultant. You ask your top veep what the hell is going on.

He says the consultant looked at the big picture, tinkered a little bit, put a fresh set of eyes on things and generally tried to get the lay of the land. Then he examined the paradigms, explored the organization's sense of self and began to put together a framework for considering the dominant variables in determining the standards against which the organization's goals were aspirational versus motivational versus delusional.

When you ask him what he actually did, the top veep is a bit evasive, there is some confusing back and forth before you come away with the distinct impression that the top veep just pumped you for what you think should have happened and then just told you that happened. Why the hell don't I fire this guy?

The consultant finally issues his report, you rush upstairs and put on your Fun Bunch jammies and hop into your awesome bed with the removable dome, fire up your camping lantern and read it.

You are not surprised that it reads 1) your head coach has problems devising gameplans, calling plays and managing game flow. Thanks a lot Captain Obvious, how much did that cost me?

You are not surprised that it reads 2) your quarterback is not a natural fit for the offense and that the weight of being a head coach has taken away valuable time that was spent last season developing him.

You are a bit surprised that 3) the offensive line was rated as poor and declining, after all you yourself said 32 was not old for a left tackle.

You are pretty surprised the guy thinks 4) none of the receiving threats acquired in the draft last season are making an impact. I mean stats don't lie but what about hidden yardage? Or, wait was that the one about synergy?

You are very surprised it reads 5) your primary tailback appears to be in career decline, unless that is the fault of 3) and 4) above.

You are incredibly surprised to read 6) the main problem with the team appears to be a consistent, long term and structural neglect in acquiring talent and building a core in the most efficient manner.

You are angry that the report reads 1) and 2) would not be a problem if not for 6) which has led to 3), 4) and 5).

You get so mad you squeeze your Riggo doll until he squeaks that the main recommendation of the report is to fire the top veep, hire serious senior managers and let them run the business. The final recommendation is for you, the CEO, to fly far far away to a private island, let your new management run the business, sign the checks and wait for the wins to start rolling in.

So you tear up the report, stop payment on the consultant's final paycheck and pretend nothing ever happened.

Sherm Lewis: uncredited image from here.