CEO’s Directive: Be quantitative, not qualitative

English: Knight Templar
English: Knight Templar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was working in the quality sector for a lot of years at a company with more than two thousand employees; however, as an engineer I have been always a quantitative man instead of qualitative, but what people do not know is that senior managers of the quality sector wanted to be more quantitative than me.

A day in the morning I received a terrifying assignment for an innovation manager that came directly from the CEO, I had to prepare a methodology to evaluate the products of our company in order to be presented at the annual conference of the managers of our company. He wanted to determine if innovative products are equal to the strategic ones, and equal to profitable ones. When I received this task from my senior director, thinking with a qualitative mind in not spending money unnecessarily I answered him immediately that there was not a need to do that work, I could answer him at once. Of course, innovative products are equal neither to the strategic nor to the profitable. Innovation is related to novelty and nothing implies that something novel must be strategic or profitable necessarily. In fact, an innovative product is, by definition, in its growth phase, and other products usually are more profitable. This can be known from a basic knowledge on strategic management. I got surprised when my boss told me: “the CEO does not want your opinion, he wants a serious study that compares all the products of the company, and you will have to present it in two weeks at our managing conference”.

This is one of the main reminiscences of my “managing training” as this task had all the ingredients of an initiation ritual. You cannot say that you are an authentic manager if you have never received a quasi-impossible task, to be done in a quasi-instant time, and to be evaluated by the quasi-complete managing staff and you have completed it with success. When I passed the test I felt as a tribal boy that becomes man or a man that is knighted. I demonstrated to everyone and myself that I was good enough to “be considered a warrior inside the community”.

This work was presented later by the CEO in front of the board of directors. I suppose that I should be proud of it. This story was more than a baptize, it produced an excellent management methodology (according to the final words of my boss), unfortunately, my salary was not incremented, my boss should think that the honor of “being considered a man” compensated the value of my results. I do not remember if I agreed with him, but this is not the basement of this story. I would like to talk you about the result of the work but as I was contracted by a company the property of the methodology is not mine; it is theirs. Perhaps, in justice, my salary should have been increased hugely.

This experience showed to me that senior staff always needs a measure in order to support their decisions. Opinions are only opinions although they come from the best expert of the company in any area. Senior managers have something to manage, and they know that you cannot manage what you cannot measure even at the quality sector. Quality is a matter of measuring too.

You cannot talk about the excellence of a company looking at the paintings of the entrance and saying that someone who buys them must have an excellent taste. The excellence of the company must be analyzed by its figures:  its benefit and other measurable things as the education level of the staff, its technology level. The things that define the capability to be leading its markets. But the most important thing is that today, we know that complex organizations cannot be well managed; an excessively complex organization cannot be excellent because its managing staff will not be able to control it under many unexpected events. The search for the excellence is increasing the complexity level of many organizations because we do not include complexity as a factor of excellence. However, I know what senior managers of the quality sector would think about this problem: “I do not want the opinion of a consultant or set of consultants, I want to measure seriously how I can to simplify my company in order to be more excellent”.


One thought on “CEO’s Directive: Be quantitative, not qualitative

  1. Totally agree, Luis, is there something that I learned many years ago… “Facts and figures talks by themselves” there is no polemic when a number express a fact related to almost any situation of a company and its operations.

    All the time we have to keep in mind what Lord Kelvin said a century ago …

    “Something that can not be defined will not be measurable, that what is not measurable will not be improve it, that what is not improve it always will be degradable”

    Saludos Luis.

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