Business Prevention. Such a little trendy consulting theme that nowadays everybody seems to have an opinion about. The magazines and blogs are full of noncommittal chatter about the topic. But just try to discuss tangible action. Then suddenly nobody is around anymore. So I count myself lucky for having the opportunity to talk to a project leader that actually has been involved in business prevention in practice.
We meet in the lobby of the head offices of a big, global organisation. There, the first step of a radical transformation programme has just been finalised. “Nobody likes change” declares the project leader. His thoughts seem to wander off to the exit, where he just now hastily has consumed 3 cigarettes. “But in these times, denial was no longer an option. The organisation was hopelessly fragmented. Countless departments, all dedicatedly focused on their own area. Totally blind to what surrounded them. Often, people did not even realise that they were actually involved in business prevention. Let alone that they joined forces with others”.
He gives me a few examples. “Take for instance the Legal department. They are practicing business prevention both on the supply and demand side, would you believe. Trying to cover the full 100% of legal contingencies can effectively block any proposal to the client for months. Or even completely stop it. And in the same way, you can tighten the screws on your suppliers so much that nobody dares to do business with you anymore”. He contemplates the thought for a few seconds. “And I have not even mentioned patents yet. A fascinating world in which complete departments are busying each other for years without ever making one single dime of revenue. Expect of course for their own salaries.”
He sits up straight again. “Anyway, I’m wandering off. You can hardly imagine that there was no collaboration with the Risk Management department: people that know the what’s what of blocking entrepreneurship and innovation like no one else. And yet, they were perfectly separate islands. Procurement: same story. Just realise how consistently they are using their checklists and tick-in-the-boxes to get the lowest price without ever considering the real needs of the business. I’ll tell you, they are walking the path towards more business prevention there every day. But do you think they will even exchange the tiniest best practice? “.
He tells me the list goes on and on. “Ever had a good look at the IT department? Man, they are making an art out of business prevention there. Humourless security experts that want to isolate the company from the rest of the world. Enterprise architects with their agonisingly slow, introspective little theories. Rigid applications managers with their nailed-up Service Level Agreements. I could tell you stories. Such a big pool of untapped talent”.
Then, unfortunately our time is up. “To cut things short” he concludes “we have brought all of these departments together in one big Business Prevention Shared Service Centre. If you see what this already has delivered in terms of mutual recognition and insight, it generates so much positive energy. And we have only just embarked on our mission towards superior business prevention”. He shakes my hand while he walks me to the exit. His cigarette is already lighted.