Ever had writers block? Wikipedia defines it as a condition, associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task in hand. At the other extreme, some blocked writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers.
Fortunately when I wrote my sixth and most recent book, Performance Management Integrating Strategy Execution, Methodologies, Risk and Analytics, I did not have writers block. But imagine if I did. I could have attempted to start my book by writing the opening lines of chapter one this way:
Chapter 1 It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness. Implementing performance management methodologies is like this."
Uh, no. This is how I feel sometimes when I observe organizations that could benefit from implementing performance management methodologies, but choose not to. It is so disappointing to me.
Let me start this over.
Chapter 1 Yo. All you execs. Get with it. Dont cha know that getting in shape can make you a champ? You dont want to ever say, I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody. Instead Im a bum. Come on. Start implementing performance management methodologies.
Ah, no again. Sounds too much like Rocky Balboa and Marlon Brando. It might catch some readers attention, but not enough readers.
Lets start again.
Chapter 1 Jack be nimble. Jack be quick. Jack jumped over the candlestick. Now replace Jack with your companys name and replace candlestick with your rival competitors name. Performance management methodologies can complete this vision on how your organization can excel.
Nope, too juvenile. Some of my readers may too quickly judge my book as nursery rhymes that are beneath them. The irony is that when some of their organizations use traditional managerial accounting practices, their reported product profit and costs are a fairy tale of distorted inaccuracies compared to what theyd find if they applied performance managements techniques that reliably model and compute cost.
There must be another way to start this book.
Chapter 1 Does your organization measure the right things? How many employees can explain your executive teams strategy well? Do managers mistrust the accuracy of your organizations cost accounting system? How many managers love doing the annual budgeting process? Do any think your budgets numbers are near obsolete in a few months and the entire budgeting process may not be worth the effort?
Oops, no. This beginning may depress too many readers to the extent that theyll not read any further. They may know that the answers to these questions are sad ones. Performance management methodologies can resolve all those pains, but first I need to capture the readers attention.
Lets try to be more profound.
Chapter 1 Performance management is typically perceived far too narrowly as just a CFO-driven initiative with better financial reporting and a bunch of dashboards. It is much broader and richer. Performance management is the integration of multiple methodologies with each one imbedded with business analytics, such as segmentation analysis and, especially, predictive analytics to achieve the strategy and to make better decisions.
Well, better not. Its too preachy. Save this description for somewhere inside the book, after theyve begun reading.
Surely theres a different way to start.
Chapter 1 Are you dissatisfied with the direction your organization is headed? Are you unhappy that there are poor decisions being made daily? Are you disappointed that marketing seems to have a spray-and-pray approach without targeting the higher-value customers? Are you frustrated that hardly anyone in your organization is held accountable, and that if there was a pay-for-performance bonus system, youd be rich by now?
Too angry. I dont want my readers to dislike me from the get-go.
Whats another way?
Chapter 1 I have been so fortunate. Job careers may have more to do with luck and circumstances than being smart or competent or political. I was in the right places at right times to have experienced the scars of implementing performance management solutions and systems. I subsequently got lucky to continue being in the right place and become a careful observer of hundreds of organizations implementing these solutions and to witness some be unsuccessful. I will now share in this book what I have seen. I am told by others that I can explain complex subjects in ways that people can understand them.
I love this start of chapter one. But wait. Does it make me appear too self-centered? Will anyone believe me?
Somehow I did in fact write the first few sentences of my recent book. I did not agonize with the fictitious examples above. I just jumped in and started writing. Im kind of a ready-fire-aim type, but to do so over and over again to keep learning from my mistakes. Jumping to the back of the book, a favorite part of mine is the last paragraphs:
People are what enterprise performance management is all about, so I honor and respect the importance of applying the principles of behavioral change management. However, my love for quantitative analysis influences me to conclude with a short narration by the great Princeton University mathematician and Nobel Prize winner, John Nash. Nash introduced a theory describing how rational human beings should behave if there is a conflict of interests. In the Academy Awardwinning movie about Nashs life, A Beautiful Mind, he said:
I like numbers because with numbers truth and beauty are the same thing. You know you are getting somewhere when the equations start looking beautiful. And you know that the numbers are taking you closer to the secret of how things are.