Thursday, 17 December 2009

Acknowledging the elephant in the room

Day 25 yadda yadda yadda

Before my old outfit was bought up by PFE (if you still have trouble remembering acronyms, here is the link) and a variety of great people were laid off shown the door given a magnanimous shove, my ultimate reporting line was to a terrific man who, for all his foibles and doggedness, was a consummate professional. For the sake of anonymity I will call him Hammer-man. 

I learnt pretty quickly that provided you were honest and up-front with this person, he would treat you with the respect and trust that went with your position. Even if your revenues were going down the pan, your staff working on non-billable projects, and your pipeline deals falling by the wayside, if you were able to explain the reasons for this clearly, have a plan of action in place, and show that you were being constructive in your next steps for the business, he pretty much left you to get on with the show and keep him updated on a regular basis. 

What never changed, however, was his penchant for metaphors. No matter what was being discussed, how diabolical the comparison, or even how insignificant the event, he always had the appropriate metaphor. My favourite was about the elephant in the room.

A client wanted X (ie everything plus the kitchen sink), but only had budget for Y (a teaspoon). The negotiations went back and forth over a period of weeks, which dragged in to months. Eventually Hammer-man stepped in and said that the problem was that the client had to acknowledge the elephant in the room. They either changed their requirements or came up with more money. Plain and simple.

Except: the number of stakeholders now meant the project was far greater than originally envisioned, plus the original budget was based on very high level first estimates, which were now obsolete.

"So what do we do about the elephant?" I asked.

"Easy," he replied, "they either opt for a smaller animal or get the taxidermist in."

No idea if this actually answered the problem, but I loved it.

1 comment:

  1. love this, and so love the elephant in the room, everyone has them.. althought certainly not as pretty as that one! x


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