Scope a real ball breaker, do we really have to master it?

I remember many shopping trips with partners when she has described in great detail exactly what she needs to set off the rest of the outfit for an upcoming event.

I have managed to get enthusiastic enough to scan the windows and shelves with her and then there it is. I can’t believe my eyes it is such a perfect match. The price tag is a bit saucy, but worth my putting in the extra so we can relax and enjoy the rest of the day.

No, it is not what she wants. Yes it does match all the needs, but no it is not right. On we go and hours later exhausted we end up with what she is willing to accept. I am now spending heavily to get out of the dog house and I have finally managed to empty my brain and reach a state of alcohol encouraged xen. I have given up.

That is how people really are as opposed to how people pretend they are.

Ask any recruiter about the clients who continuously reject perfect candidates. It costs on average £15,000 to recruit an executive as a direct result of this indecision and inability to truly define scope up front and stick to it.

Can a business really afford to operate like a shopping trip?

Well the average MBA is going to say no to this one, but I am not totally in agreement. Businesses are far from perfect, in fact they are dismally bad even at their best and to be the best you only have to be marginally better than the worst. I’m not suggesting that this is easily achieved, just painting the map for now.

I worked around the advertising industry quite a bit and it operates exactly like the shopping trip. Decisions happen, usually when there is a gun to someone’s head (metaphorically of course) and those who are “gifted” seem to get it right more often than wrong.  The accountants take the paperwork out of the dustbin and announce the results,  to their surprise; “We made a profit, we are clever aren’t we?”  Are they? They’re having more fun than anyone I worked with in any other industry.

Business is a very simple concept

Business is simply a matter of investing capital to make a return greater than you might have done had you invested in a risk free environment like Gilts (when such a concept existed) otherwise why bother. The bit that is usually unwritten but implied is that the return should compensate for the extra risk as well as giving a better return. (That assumes you can beat markets? Another great blog opportunity)

So when I take capital from a Capex budget and invest it in the “red coat to match the shoes”, this is money that belongs to the retired lady in Dagenham who relies on her dividends to keep her little car running, or Larry form Luton who is saving for his retirement in five years time and worried abut being in poverty.  By law we should have retuned it to him, but we offered to reinvest it and make him even more money and he trusted us with his savings.

Clearly we need to be responsible about the way we make the decisions and we need to be accountable if questioned, but at the same time, we can’t; let fear, or external constraints blind our intuition or cloud our judgement.

Choose your weapons in advance

The answer in my view is to approach the decision about methodology up front.
The next advertising campaign for a big brand needs to be right and rightness is a subjective decision that is best made intuitively by people who have a record of getting this right. Waiting days, weeks, or months longer for this magic to work is a rock solid investment and rushing it with any form of  coercive or brainstorming techniques threatens to kill the golden goose. Deadlines have been proven to weaken creativity contrary to most misconceptions among journalists.


Is time the key factor?

Sometimes you only need the best possible output in a timeframe, or for a budget. E.G.  the front page leading article by 9 p.m. sharp, but other times you need the bee’s knees and it is worth waiting for.

Is the decision subjective, or objective?

If it is objective, then the key requirements can be clearly articulated and a process followed that will take you to the best decision. The answer is then very mathematical and logical, it may be a TCO, or ROI figure or simply the highest score.

If it is subjective, then you need to identify the people who will make this decision, you have to tell them whether you need best possible answer by Friday, or the bee’s knees and give them all the support you can.

If this is a visual thing, or a kinaesthetic thing, then you may be able create prototypes and let your experts see, feel or even experience some element of the design recording as you go along the things that go down well and narrowing the scope, or if nobody looks happy you may think laterally and try to find something that stimulates them.
The fastest cheapest way from A to B

It has been well established and indeed I have blogged about this in more detail previously, that without question the fastest cheapest and most certain way form A to B is to establish where B is and how to recognise it when you arrive, break the journey into easily managed stages and then follow your plan.

If however; as is sometimes the case, B is can not be defined objectively and/or there are no maps available for the territory in between, then you need to take a more agile approach and allow for the extra time and cost, but balance it against the reward.

Changing your mind along the way

This is a sure sign of immaturity, but occasionally it is necessary and justified.
She has just got home, tried the shoes again and then the party is cancelled.(bad example, she wants to keep them anyhow) You can still return them. It’s been changed to smart casual, you can exchange them. It’s troublesome but better than having no options.

What if we have one who just is a ditherer and wants to go to a different city to try there and returns them four times . .  I sense we have been there.

In business you can most definitely put a stop t this and you have a duty to do so.
Once tht decision is made, it stays made unless a very powerful new piece of information justifies revisiting it.

  1. The important thing coming out of this is that a decision must be made within some sort of constraints and the first order of business is to establish the constraints on this thinking.
  2. If the decision can be made objectively, it should be and a clear scope written down and followed
  3. If the decision is subjective, then all the inputs required to ease the journey must be in place, the owner of the intuition should be put in place and allowances made up front for delays and overruns
  4. Once a decision is made, move on and only ever return if there is a powerful argument backed by strong evidence