A conversation this weekend stopped me in my tracks. A friend of mine told me a story about something that happened to him at work this week. He overheard a call to one of his team from their internal sales call centre. It transpired that a customer had requested a delivery, nothing special you might think? However, the sale had come from a business a couple of hundred yards from where he was currently located. The irony was that the sales assistant in the call centre two hundred miles away was explaining that the order could not be placed with the local depot. Instead she advised that it had to come from a depot 50 miles away!
The logic – the sales targets indicated that the product needed to be delivered from that depot 50 miles away, other wise they would not hit their sales target for the month. Fortunately, my friend who was the manager over both sites stepped in to over rule the decision. He said to me ‘I thought this is madness, I was prepared to take the consequences, and so I overruled the decision. The decision was ridiculous. Sales were not happy’. This got us on to a conversation about the stupidity of targets and the effect that they have within businesses. For the sake of a sales target the business was prepared to spend more cash delivering tonnes of product by taking a 100 mile round trip. How can this be good for business?
Fortunately my friend has a systemic view of the world, and was able to allow common sense to prevail and take executive action. He could see how barmy this decision really was.
The worrying thing is that If he had not been in the right place at the right time the business would have lost money, but it would have hit it’s sale targets for the month. How barmy is that!
He was the first to recognise that the sales team will be making arbitrary decisions like this every day. The sad thing is that he feels powerless to impact the command and control style of management that operates within the business.