Keep it on One Sheet

When IT personnel seek approval  for a project or to purchase software, they spend a lot time preparing a document which is often restricted to a single page summary.  Many managers today insist that everything be crowded onto  1- 1.5 pages before they will make a decision.    I have  sat in meetings in which they didn’t even look at the paper because they had the responsibility for deciding an issue but not the knowledge or experience.   At first glimpse it may be seen as  intellectual laziness (and in some cases it is), but far more often it is a resource constraint.  “I don’t have the bandwidth” you hear people complain so ‘no’ is the safe decision.  Late adoption of new, beneficial technologies normally occurs in companies with technical managers of below average technical understanding or where the CIO still reports to the CFO.  This is not meant as a slur, but simply what I have observed.  One could argue with access to capital you don’t have to be an aggressive user of new technology.  The choice is reasonable if frustrating to innovators in the company.

Returning to our single sheet requirement, it becomes apparent one cannot present all the information.  The relevant data will be  selected  so that it communicates the facts from sender to receiver but only the facts the sender wants to show.  If the level of trust is high it won’t be questioned.    This process practically guarantees a tendentious analysis.  This simply does not serve the best interests of the company.  I intentionally chose an innocuous example.  Far worse are the complexity of internal politics, turf wars  or outright corruption.  These are real risks and when things are going well they are glossed over or accepted.

To work around these problems and risks, it is necessary to properly set the context.  Starting with our time horizon, drilling into corporate strategic goals, looking at our internal systems,  and finally at the product or project we are analyzing.  The frame we create profoundly impacts our decisions.  If the goal is to make the best choices possible, this is where we start.



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