Single issue focus is just as bad for business as it is for government policy. It’s vision that counts.
This post springs from the debates surrounding the tax reform legislation currently gestating in the bowels of D.C.
Interviewed on one of the many news programs early this morning was a leader of a home-building special interest group. With great bluster, this gentleman spoke of how the capping of mortgage interest deductions for mortgages above $500,000 would be detrimental to home values, and because of that it is ultimately a bad idea.
This guy was a single-issue representative–the very personification of a “special” interest lobbyist with a single issue to flog up on Capitol Hill. The interview was admirable for its pureness; but it was cautionary for a single reason: It lacked any nod toward vision for what the government ought to subsidize through tax policy. When you are a homebuilder, a lot of what you focus on is the amount of money that can flow to homebuilding. You care a lot about whether the government decides to stop subsidizing mortgages for homes that only really wealthy people buy because, well, those kind of homes represent a lot of income for you.
What you might NOT focus on is whether the government ought to subsidize luxury housing of any kind. A reasonable person could ask whether tax policy ought to subsidize jumbo mortgages at all.
The interview didn’t get into the role of government, it only got at the desires of a single-issue interest group; and it brought to mind an important management imperative for almost any of us:
Never, ever, allow an issue of any sort take the place of a vision.
How often do you see managers focused on productivity in a single part of the plant or shop floor, or efficiency of a single department in a company, only to have no concept of–or, indeed to work against–how the overall company delivers value for customers.
You may think you don’t see this, but you do.
You see it every time you sit on hold waiting for a customer service representative whose time was determined to be more valuable than any specific customer’s (if that weren’t the case, then why make the customer wait and the rep not wait? Hmmmm?). You see it every time you walk around a big box retailer…searching for a person to help you find that item you are looking for. You see it every time you receive an appointment window of 4 (or 6?) hours for a service call at your house.
These are the outcomes of single issue votes in the business world. They are the results of a focus on efficiency (or inefficiency) in one place at the expense of the whole or, in the worst of cases, the customer.
A customer-centered vision for service would envision no customers waiting, just as a citizen-centered focus on the tax code might envision no subsidies for luxury homes. Yet, we have special interests that win in the corporate office at the expense of the customer; and we have special interests mining the tax code in spades.
The next time you entertain that consultant who just wants to help you cut “inefficiency,” make sure you ask how that inefficiency fits within your vision for value delivery. That consultant’s issue isn’t a vision.
Just make sure that your issue isn’t that you lack vision.
What do you think?