The other day I had lunch with a university professor and former consultant. We talked about the Executive Mastery Fellowship program that I am developing for CEOs and Board of Director members. One of the critical questions we discussed was the nature of the pain that CEOs experience; is that an insufficiency in goal-setting or in solving a particular problem and implementing its solution? At first sight they seem to have goals but they are struggling with their realization.
This raised another critical question regarding a consultant’s moral conduct. Should consultants just answer questions uncritically, take the money and leave or look for the right question first? The answer is not always obvious especially in those critical issues that require self-examination which can evoke serious push-back and possibly the loss of an attractive assignment. Here’s an example: I consulted with a small manufacturing/marketing company in Seattle, WA that received a cash-offer for the purchase of a container load of their products from a wholesale buyer. As this could possibly become a new and recurring source of revenue, they wondered whether they should accept or reject the enticing offer.
The idiosyncratic consultant’s answer is “It depends”. It depends on what? Well, what is the bigger picture perspective? From a pure financial point of view they should take the money because cash is king and liquidity was an issue for my client. This is a good answer but is it the answer to the right question, the question that would bring this company closer to achieving its goals?
From a strategic point of view they needed to ask some critical questions first; questions about their own goals and mission and that of the wholesale buyer. It turned out that my client wanted to build a brand around superior quality that commands a superior margin. The wholesaler turned out to be an Internet marketer who dumped my client’s products on the market at seriously discounted prices. As a result, the variance in prices for one and the same product between e-bay offerings, the dealer network and factory-direct was in some instances as high as 92 percent!!! This is detrimental to the image of the Brand.
The lesson learned is that goals exist within a hierarchy. Purpose translates into a vision. Vision translates into a Mission and in turn, that Mission must be translated into a Competitive Strategy. Strategy must be broken out in long-term Goals for the different departments and these Goals must be interpreted and defined into short-term Objectives. In other words each hierarchical level within the organization must support the objectives and thus Goals of the next highest hierarchical level, all the way back to purpose. In other words, observing the hierarchy of Goals is the easiest tool for preserving integrity or wholeness (read: fewer problems, less friction and conflict, higher net-profits) inside your organization. It takes some work but I guarantee it’s worth your time and efforts!