The Due Diligence Checklist (Part 3)

Don’t Overestimate the Flow of Information Up to Management.

We know what rolls downhill, but in organizations information does not roll uphill easily.  As a business leader, there may be many things you don’t see and are not even aware of in your organization.  These factors will be missing in your plans and calculations.  One of the purposes of bringing in a tech advisor is to bring these things to light.  (Workflow software that includes management rollups can help bring information through and organize it for analysis.)

When organizations grow they tend to build more layers of bureaucracy.  The hierarchical structure may be justified for business reasons, but it does tend to compartmentalize and filter information.  People often don’t like to report problems to their superiors, and those who do may be branded as complainers.  Some simply don’t know how to bring their reports forward in a constructive way.

Very recently I watched part of an episode of Undercover Boss in which the chief executive of a huge hotel complex spent time behind the check-in desk.  The company had recently “upgraded” their computer system.  Unlike the old system, which workers liked, the new system was difficult to use (too many windows and clicks), very slow to process, often froze up, and would spit credit cards out onto the floor if the clerks weren’t there to catch them at just the right time.  It caused a lot of frustration among the employees, and at busy times the guests ended up waiting in long lines because it took so long to process each party.  Prior to his undercover stint, the executive had no idea that this was going on.  He knew the computer system had been recently upgraded, but never got any feedback from the primary users or the guests.  Armed with the information, he arranged to correct the problems.

Don’t Overestimate Your Internal Confidentiality;  Don’t Underestimate How Quickly Word Spreads.

This is the flipside of the last item.  Scuttlebutt comes from many sources and can go viral, and when it is negative it can have a devastating effect.  Just because the chief executive at the hotel complex hadn’t known about his bad computer system didn’t mean that his customers didn’t know.

Even information held very confidential can be deduced or figured out.  Analysts will interpret publically known events.  (If a CFO unexpectedly leaves with no explanation, this causes worry and speculation among investors.)  Spouses may read each other’s moods and expressions and figure out that something very good or bad is going on.  The same goes for families, friends, and acquaintances.

Don’t Forget about the “Silent Majority” – Your Customers

Customers may be your end-users – for example, if you have a web presence for retail sales – in which case it behooves you to make sure that their experiences are easy, reliable, and satisfactory.  However, even when your customers don’t interact directly with your system, it can have a very powerful impact on their experiences and how they look upon your business.  The hotel guests at the front desk with the undercover boss are a good example.

The Due Diligence Checklist to Be Continued in Part 4.

Copyright © 2011 Patrick D. Russell
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