Gem of the day

Two cases of classic business dysfunction, illustrating the scale of the challenge surrounding data for decision-making (via the comments page of the Guardian, who knew life beyond trolls existed there?)
  • Glossy reports are great for coffee tables - not as a theory of change. "At AT&T we sat down with the company’s main futures group to discuss how they were working to ensure that AT&T kept on top of important unfolding trends and used them to its advantage...We then interviewed the AT&T Vice President who was in charge of the futures group as well as other responsibilities... He looked at us rather blankly, considered for a moment what we had said, and then said words to the effect, 'oh you mean the people who do all those long reports! I can’t actually say I have time to read them because I’m spending all my time trying to figure out how we can make a profit on all the copper wiring we have strung across the country and are now taking down.'" 
  • Designing tomorrow's solutions to fit into today's structures = backwards strategy. "[At Royal Dutch Shell] we sat in the New York offices of the company and had another fascinating discussion with a key executive in charge of futures analysis. He showed us an organizational chart that was absolutely stunning. The chart depicted the Shell group as being made up of 240 or so separate companies representing an incredible array of functions. It was obvious that while it was possible to create the superbly detailed organizational chart, it was impossible for anyone to understand and synthesize the activities of that many discreet actors and create a coherent strategy that incorporated their behaviors." 

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