The $9M Mistake You Might Be Making

I was reading an article over the weekend that gave me a little chuckle. 

The New York City Department of Education spent over $9M to equip their school buses with GPS. A year later they found out about 80% of them were never even turned on!

The critical line, in my opinion, from the story is, “From the beginning, the…project lacked oversight, accountability, communication, and employees with the technical abilities to oversee…the project.”

If this doesn’t fly smack dab in the face of what we’ve been talking about every Tuesday, then I’m not sure what will. 

Here we have several pristine examples of common pitfalls I’ve pointed out in many previous tidbits, which I’ll try to place in order here:

  1. They made a significant investment in shiny, new, and exciting technology,
  2. It seems like the investment was made before deciding the outcome or how the organization would be better once they had this new technology.
  3. There was no process in place for launching the new technology to ensure adoption, compliance, or if the drivers even turned the thing on…
  4. There was a lack of communication with their key people on how to drive the new initiative. For example, think of Sales Managers that don’t have a clear sales process or measures/expectations of activity.
  5. There was no ongoing oversight by senior management to ensure that the program was indeed working until the year was up.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it. No investment in tools, technology, or training will help an organization if its leadership team isn’t willing to walk the walk and talk the talk. 

It’s too easy for new initiatives to be written off as “just another flavor of the month.” 

It’s easy to laugh at a failure of this magnitude because it seems like they got everything wrong. But all of the things that went wrong stem from just one key failure: If leadership isn’t willing to check up on how the tools are being used or to have a better understanding of what tools are needed, then any change initiative is likely doomed.  

I see this day in and day out when I work with organizations, whether they’re a small family-owned $20M/year shop or a massive $1B+ multinational.  

Most companies have a lot of areas in their business where the simple (but incredibly important) questions aren’t being asked or answered on a regular basis. 

Focus your attention there first, and you’ll not only find much higher ROI – you’ll also save yourself and your people a lot of wasted time and effort.

One of the reasons I spend so much time helping companies put processes into place early on is that it allows us to “bake in” the senior management monitoring expectations. 

It creates a way to quantify the activity taken at every level, so that we can easily spot those places where the new initiative is succeeding or failing, and allows us to step in immediately, instead of a year down the road.

Your Challenge for This Week: Pick a single area of your business where you’re about to make an investment (tools, training, technology) and ask yourself these questions:

Do you know the outcome you’re trying to achieve?

How will you measure success?

Have you built the process your people will follow?

Who will be accountable to who?