I have sometimes been a bit rebellious and disobeyed instructions and directions from my supervisors. This column is intended to inspire those of you who are like-minded with me and prefer to do what you believe is correct rather than what is demanded of you. Behaving this way is obviously risky and can be career-limiting. After more than 40 years working in large hierarchical companies I “quasi-retired” in late 2012, so I am no longer being managed and can write what I wish about being defiant.
A Military Example of Disobedience
I am inspired to write this blog based on the book by Marine Corporal Dakota Meyer who defied orders in the battlefield in Afghanistan and authored the book “Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War.” The following, taken from the book’s review on Amazon.com, is a brief description of what he did:
“In the fall of 2009, Taliban insurgents ambushed a patrol of Afghan soldiers and Marine advisors in a mountain village called Ganjigal. Firing from entrenched positions, the enemy was positioned to wipe out one hundred men who were pinned down and were repeatedly refused artillery support. Ordered to remain behind with the vehicles, twenty-one year-old Marine corporal Dakota Meyer disobeyed orders and attacked to rescue his comrades.
“With a brave driver at the wheel, Meyer stood in the gun turret exposed to withering fire, rallying Afghan troops to follow. Over the course of the five hours, he charged into the valley time and again. Employing a variety of machine guns, rifles, grenade launchers, and even a rock, Meyer repeatedly repulsed enemy attackers, carried wounded Afghan soldiers to safety, and provided cover for dozens of others to escape—supreme acts of valor and determination. In the end, Meyer and four stalwart comrades—an Army captain, an Afghan sergeant major, and two Marines—cleared the battlefield and came to grips with a tragedy they knew could have been avoided. For his actions on that day, Meyer became the first living Marine in three decades to be awarded the Medal of Honor.”
If you are a bit rebellious like I am, how can you not be inspired by Meyer’s actions?
Defying Orders in your Organization
For those of you who read my articles blogs and columns, you are aware of my frustration with the slow adoption rate of enterprise and corporate performance management methods such as strategy maps, the balanced scorecard, driver-based budgeting, and activity-based costing for product, channel and customer profitability analysis. When properly implemented, these are proven performance improvement methods that result in better decisions and align managers and the workforce to execute the executive team’s strategy.
I consider myself to be a team player in both my work environment and high school and university sports. I believe that on sports teams, you play for the name on the front of your team’s jersey and not the personal name on the back. But haven’t you seen American football quarterbacks sometimes ignore the offensive play prescribed by the coaches’ laminated playbook and call an audible at the line of scrimmage that results in a touchdown?
The executive team is tasked with leadership, and ideally managers and employee teams should follow their instructions. But how many of you have ever worked for a weak leadership team? If you are bold, there are times when you realize it is best to do what you believe is the right thing.
The Need for Middle Level Manager Champions
Organizations need more “champion” behavior from their middle managers. LinkedIn discussion groups frequently feature chatter about poor guidance from executives. A recent discussion had many discussants moaning about their CFO function’s reluctance to implement activity-based costing principles for reasons such as ABC would result in two different sets of product costs or that it is too complicated to implement. This is nonsense. My observations have been that champions proceed anyway, with pilots and proof-of-concept models to demonstrate the value of having better information for insights, foresight and decisions.
Analytics and Big Data The Next Battle
Business analytics, like correlation and segmentation cluster analysis, are increasingly being embedded into EPM methodologies. For example, correlation of balanced scorecard key performance indicators can validate the quality of selected KPIs as having high or low explanatory value of the operational measures that truly influence the strategic KPIs and ultimately impact the financial outcomes and the degree of strategy execution.
As another example, the statistical method of recursive portioning with decision trees can, after each customer’s level of profitability has been calculated, determine which major factor (other than sales volume) most differentiates the higher from lower profit customers. This statistical method then also determines the second major factor, the third one, and so on. It does this since each customer profit level has been calculated and there are dozens of other variables in the customer master file (e.g., customer locations, order sizes, frequency of returned goods, special services requests) that can erode profit levels. With this information a company not only knows how profitable its customers are, but also why they are their respecitve level of profitability and consequently what actions to take to increase their profitability.
Will we see executives and IT managers stonewall analysts who know that applying business analytics is the right thing to do? Of course. Be a champion; defy them the way Dakota Meyer did. You will not receive the Medal of Honor, but you will know your actions will serve your organization well.