I am in Kuwait today and am completing a four week international seminar tour ending in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and now finally in Kuwait. What have I observed? It never ceases to astound me how middle managers seem to quickly comprehend the principles and benefits of the various enterprise performance management methodologies – but their executive teams above them often don’t!
What’s going on? This has been a mystery to me that I have some theories that may explain this paradox. I refer to it as a paradox because aren’t executives supposed to be smarter than middle managers? Why are executive teams an element of the “weight” that is slowing the adoption rate of applying managerial methodologies such as strategy maps, balanced scorecards, customer profitability analysis, and business analytics? Here are my theories:
Theory 1 – Executives have been burned in the past by systems implementations that did not fulfill the high ROI promises of large scale systems implementations such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. My belief is these systems do provide the raw transactional data to be exploited for better decision making, but the modeling tools and analytics were not (or were deficiently) applied to transform the data into meaningful information.
Theory 2 – Executives are distracted by daily firefighting. Their pre-occupation with solving a myriad of never-ending one-off problems prevents the time to think of longer-term sustaining solutions.
Theory 3 – Executives continue to exhibit silo-based behavior that narrows their view on how the seamlessly integrated methodologies of the performance management solutions produce enterprise-wide synergies. One plus one can be greater than three.
Theory 4 – Executives know something that their middle managers don’t know. Maybe executives believe their middle managers and employees teams are not capable of leveraging the cross-functional benefits of enterprise performance management. My belief is executives under-estimate the competencies and ability to learn that middle managers possess.
Theory 5 – Executives were promoted to their positions less on their understanding the business they are in and more on cunning and politics.
I have more theories, but you probably see the theme and pattern that I am postulating. To be fair, some executives do “get it.” But they too are up against something few of us were ever trained on – behavioral change management. Resistance to change, which is human nature, is very large. It is much larger than most everyone realizes.
The managers in Kuwait and other rising countries and economies I visit are rarely different than managers in established North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific organizations. Most middle managers and employee teams are anxious to implement improvements and don’t want to “wait” to get going. But they have this heavy “weight” of executive teams that are wary or reluctant to take next steps up the stages of maturity ladder. A great resource to better understand these stages are being researched by Howard Dresner, President of Dresner Advisory Services, an IT analyst firm. Howard’s Performance Culture Maturity Model is one of the best frameworks I have seen that explains what is necessary to ascend to higher levels of enterprise performance management and improvement.
There are no valid reasons to wait, in Kuwait or anywhere.
I am new to this site, however, I was really impressed by your quick observation in such a short time. I have been working with Saudi Aramco for almost 25 years, and I took early retirement. I worked in the process automation arena where KPI’s is one of the most important subject that I was promoting it at all levels.
You are right, there is always a great resistance to implement the KPI’s at all levels by executive, and the reason, I think, falls with your number 5 theory. The other theory that you have not mentioned is accountability for performance and profit. The executive are not accountable to show profit and be asked ways to improve it, they depend on re-actively reporting it every quarter and not proactively improving it.
Any way, I started my own company specialized in this business, Manufacturing Excellence Solutions, which mainly involved in developing and integrating KPI’s, improving, and develop root cause analysis to provocatively detect performance degradation before it becomes a problem,
Any way, if you are interested and around the area to discuss ways of collaborating, drop me email,