As mentioned last week, our first discussion question centers around the "Glove Story" that is told on page 12. In this story, a company has a huge opportunity to save costs by streamlining their purchasing processes. The man advocating for the change does all of the sensible things. He gathers data showing how much money they can save. He creates graphs and presentations. He makes sure the powers that be understand the opportunity. He puts in all of this time and effort, and the executives nod in agreement, but the change never moves forward.
Finally, as a last resort, the employee has a summer intern gather a sample of a glove used in every facility, along with the price paid for it. He ends up with a pile of hundreds of gloves that have been bought separately by different departments. Despite being identical gloves, the cost of the gloves ranged from less than $5 to more than $15! When he invites the executives in for another meeting, he piles the gloves on a table, each tagged with the department that bought it and the price paid. Suddenly, confronted with a startling visual of the money being wasted by ineffective purchasing, the executives throw themselves behind the need for process change.
This brings me to our first discussion question: How would you create an "elephant presentation," which is a presentation designed to work on people's emotions, for a relatively boring project?
I decided to look at this question for a project type that I'm very familiar with: an Oracle ERP system implementation. Really, it just doesn't get much less sexy than that. Having worked on this type of project for years, I can assure you that very few people get excited about big system implementations. And outside of the IT department, there is often very little sense of urgency around the need to do the project. So how, exactly, could I create a presentation that would get your average person fired up about a project that will be long, hard, expensive, and boring?
I would create a video that follows the current process, focusing not just on the steps in the process, but also on the impact it has on employees along the way. Consider, for example, the purchasing process. Let's take a company that has a computer-based, but not ERP-style automated system. Executives might think the current process works just fine. The purchasing department might think the process could be a bit faster, but feel that overall it fits the company's needs. Meanwhile, the average user is pulling his hair out. The video would look like this:
Open with a shot of someone (we'll call him John) filling in an online form. Once he finishes it, he e-mails it to his boss for approval. We see John on the video the next day knocking on his boss's door. John wasn't sure if his boss had seen the e-mail, and wanted to make sure the purchasing request got reviewed. John's boss hadn't noticed the e-mail, but promises to look at it before the day is done.
Another day goes by, and we see John back at his boss's office checking on the purchasing request. John's boss informs him that he wasn't sure if he had the approval authority for such a large request, so he forwarded the form to the next level of management, just in case. The video follows John as he goes to see his boss's boss. There he meets the administrative assistant, who informs John that her boss insists that the forms be printed out so that she can review them on paper, rather than in an e-mail. The admin points to John's printed purchase request at the bottom of a large inbox pile.
Another day goes by. It's now day four, and John still doesn't know if his purchase request has been approved. We watch him go back to the administrative assistant, who informs John that her boss has left for a four-day weekend. John asks if there's someone else who can approve his request, but unfortunately, the boss didn't leave a delegate. The video ends with John walking back to his office in defeat, resigned to at least four more days of waiting for his request to be reviewed and approved.Every issue John ran into in the video could be addressed by the implementation of an ERP system. This is something that people know going into the implementation at an intellectual level, but creating a video that shows one of their actual colleagues suffering through a common problem - a problem they have probably encountered themselves - drives at their sense of empathy and helps build a sense that this is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed.
Let Me Know: Do you think this presentation would work to build an emotional response to a "boring" intellectual problem? What presentation did you come up with for a "boring"project? Let me know in the comments section below.
Next Discussion Question: Beginning on page 27, Chip and Dan use the story of fighting malnutrition in Vietnam to highlight the concept of bright spots, defined as "successful efforts worth emulating." How would you use "bright spots" in a difficult situation or project to help bring about change? I'll be sharing a real-life case study from one of my past projects.