From Ted Watson
The general idea—hardly unique to us—was to do business consistently across all of our operating units. We would have the same approach to conducting any activity regardless of whether a manager worked in Birmingham or Buffalo. We would use the same basic steps to purchase a pen, generator, or a hammer. The point was to use new technology to take advantage of economies of scale.
The executive committee for our company met one month to discuss changes that were needed in our package system. Before that session, articles had been sent to the execs about the good and the bad aspects of the existing systems. A small team of people had focused carefully on the economic analysis, looking closely at our current software programs, in particular. At the meeting, they presented their case. “The problem we have is this. Technology offers us an opportunity . . . .” Charts, graphs, and flowcharts spelled this out clearly. The executive team listened.
There were questions at the meeting. “How long will this take?” “Who else has used this software?” “How well has the software a worked for others?” But there was little controversy and not much discussion. These conversations, the offline talks before the big meeting, the CEO’s backing, and the meeting itself seemed to produce agreement.
So we started implementation. Within a few months, the number of phone calls I received from people in the divisions began to grow exponentially. People would say, “How long is this going to take? In my business we can’t . . . .” “The cost versus benefit for our business unit is no good. Why do we . . . ?” “The disruption is going to be unacceptable to us because of the people you put on the transformation team.” I tried to explain the business case. But I could have spent entire days on the telephone listening to all this.
Basically, each division had many people who wanted to continue to run their business the way they had always run it. They would accept new software as long as they suffered little inconvenience and little change except reduced costs. They wanted their financial reporting to have their traditional look and feel. They wanted to do maintenance scheduling their way and not the way it was being suggested. They said their emergency call-out process just needed a minor tune-up, or that they had always required five signatures to approve a purchase and they had to keep it that way to run their business. It went on and on and on and on. My attention was being diverted to dealing with the avalanche of calls, concerns, and issues.
To make a long story short, we hit a wall. We had to stop, go back, and start over. It was tough work, the second time around.