As executives we often have a plan. A quick new vision to execute. Seems simple enough. We explain it. Our smart employees nod their heads, taking the assignment with perceived understanding and we move on to the next order of business. But, then the outcome somehow leaves us…well, wanting. The following example illustrates why.

When I was young, my wife and I had just purchased our first home. It didn’t have a yard so we proceeded to plant grass and trees and build a bridge over a little stream. To finish off the landscaping I purchased a large boulder for the kids to play on. Then drew a line in the soil to show my wife were to put the end of the rock when it was delivered. When I got home the 3½ ton piece of granite was right by the line but, on the wrong end of the rock. I hadn’t made it clear which end I wanted touching the line so it was about 5 feet from the intended resting spot.

No problem. Being a young aggressive man with a truck (picture Tim Allen argh argh laugh here), I decided to show this rock who’s boss. I bought a 10,000 pound tow strap and hooked it up. The first pull only produced a cloud of burning tire smoke. So of course I shifted into 4 wheel low and gunned it harder. The truck shimmied then lifted off the ground, pulled up sideways over the curb and ripped a water valve out of the grass. In the process the tow strap snapped, actually propelling the metal hook right through my tailgate and blowing the ford symbol into oblivion. I got out. The rock had moved all of 3 inches. I looked at my wife and said, “Looks perfect.”

Seven Lessons

#1: Assuming my directions to my wife were clear and all the information needed had been given. I was wrong.

#2: Fixing my miscommunication cost more money, time and energy along with other collateral damage, than spending a little extra time explaining it right in the first place.

#3: A 10,000 pound tow strap means rolling weight, not sitting weight. Friction is really hard to overcome. This is especially true when friction happens between coworkers or a boss and an employee.

#4: My wife felt annoyed when she should have felt excited for the new purchase because she thought she’d done something wrong when in fact I was to blame.

#5: Because it’s harder to fix something once it’s in place, we are often left with a sense it’s incomplete and not exactly as intended (or advertised). This produces a lasting feeling of lost value.

#6: The company that delivered the rock executed exactly as instructed but still took a revenue hit. The end result cost them because we never ordered any more rocks for the backyard as originally planned.

#7: 5 people were involved in placing the rock. No one took the extra 5 minutes to verify the ideal outcome before it was too late.

Extra Execution Insight

Beyond the obvious execution issues, it also illustrates opportunities in delivering value. It often doesn’t take much to make a huge difference. My wife should have felt excited for the purchase of a boulder that our kids could climb, turn into a boat or sun bath on after running through the sprinklers. Instead the rock purchase always felt unsettled. You see this in sales meetings, websites, product launches, marketing messages and advertising materials that are delivered but somehow emotionally unsettled. These were often started as a collaborative effort from a group that ultimately, left everyone dissatisfied. And the friction to fix them is now politically too great, too expensive or simply out of the time scope.

Two points of Attention before Social Outcomes

As a company we want sales groupies who love what they purchase. Just a little extra direct communication and reinforcement makes all the difference. Want a great referral? Want to upsell other divisions? Need to lower services cost from buyer’s remorse? Then give them just a little extra attention to a specific use of your product or service, during the cycle and again at the end of the sale to validate the ideal outcome. Then assume there might have been some potential miscommunication or they simply forgot. Take a last moment to verify the ideal outcome before delivery. It’s the difference between purchase friction and buyer groupies. Which do you want on a social site tonight?




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