My last blog post covered the causality argument, summed up by the old adage, “if it walks like a duck…”– well, you know the rest.  This previous premise/message-point recognized the experience-gained from knowing your organization and what it is responsible for accomplishing gives you a very real perspective; a gut-check sense results from this in-depth knowledge—built on experience.  If you or your people possess the appropriate levels of business process knowledge, then you can sense when something is amiss in your organization.  Said another way; “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” and that realization, presuming some level of skepticism, most likely results in a need to act on the assumption.

Inquisitiveness causes action…not a bad thing.

However, as most practical management people would likely admit, many times you have no choice but to just go looking for it—that uneconomic business process, inefficiency, sloppiness, those less-than-productive-areas that just never seem to get “greased” to produce.

 You know the signs:

  • High-maintenance functions…which you find yourself monitoring too often.
  • Consistent, mediocre metrics that no one appears to own or impact.
  • An underperforming division, function, process, activity, or group that just never seems capable of reaching critical mass.
  • You just cannot seem to get crisp and timely, actionable-management information.
  • You sense there’s problems, waste, maybe even fraud.

I remember one specific quote from the front-page of the Wall Street Journal a long, long time ago, by Jim Dutt, the then-CEO of Beatrice Foods (a major conglomerate dating back to the 1960s).  He made the simple statement, “I’d rather be wrong doing something.”  This is probably a good lesson to enact—there are things going on in your organization that merit attention…your attention.  You’d better be proactive and go looking, because if you don’t…!

One last reminder on this very topic, and I can’t take credit for this one either.

Back to a more recent quote in the Wall Street Journal; from a piece that originally discussed some principles of journalism from Michael Mukasey, a former federal judge, who was attorney general of the USA from 2007-2009.  He used these in a different context, but his observations apply to business too:

Two basic rules of both journalism and history:

  • “…if you ask the wrong questions you get the wrong answers, and
  • …if you don’t look for facts you won’t find them.”

Nuff said.