The death of impact

By William Seidman Over the holidays, I had the opportunity to talk with executives from six other consulting and software firms. All of us are positioned as creating significant sustainable value, with good proof of impact and return on investment. One of the reasons we all stress this is that during the sales process, we are always asked if our solutions have an impact and how we can prove that impact. If we don’t make and explicitly support a great value equation, we are washed out. But, once these statements are made, our collective customers don’t seem to care about impact any more. We all shared many instances of clients who, after asking about impact, then wanted services and software that were so truncated that impact was lost. As an example, one of the executives talked about an energy company that wanted to improve the effectiveness of first-line supervisors. The Human Resource/Training people wanted a full program because it had impact. The operations executives wanted one day of training, without any support or follow-up, even though the HR and training people told them it wouldn’t provide meaningful and lasting results. The operations executives wanted to be able to say they did something about the initiative, but literally didn’t care if it was effective. It just had to be inexpensive in terms of time and dollars. The other executives all related similar stories. This superficial perspective is so pervasive that it seems no one wants to pay for deeper value. Cheap, ineffective solutions are favored over more expensive—but much more effective—approaches. The conclusion that all of us reached is that many companies have abandoned even the façade of impact. Instead, many companies seem to want inexpensive and ineffective approaches to employee development and organizational change. It’s hard to sell value—and have to defend value—when it isn’t very important to the buyer.  ]]>

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