When Someone Moves Your Cheese, Now What?


QUICK. Do you remember what insight started your business? If you are an employee at a business, do you know what it is?

Probably it started with some kind of trend you noticed. Something like:


That was the result of a keen, observant mind. One paying attention to what’s going on around them. One on the lookout for new opportunities. An observation probably borne out of hunger.

Hungers like:

  • How will I feed my family?

  • Where will my next mortgage payment come from?

  • How will I ever payback all these school loans?

If your sales plan is written on stone, it might become your tombstone.

These are the hungers of a mind on the attack. A mind on offense. What happens later on in a business is that these thoughts turn out to be right. And at long last, consumers agree with you. You have a business! You develop a repeatable sales motion. You start referring to it as a playbook. It gets written down on stone tablets. You teach it to SDRs, who teach it to chatbots, who teach it to the office dog. You can’t be bothered to think anymore. Automation is the name of the game. Anyone who doesn’t fit must not be in your target market. Otherwise, they would be buying! You qualify them out of your pipeline.

Then Disaster Strikes!

Your trusted sales motion starts working a little less frequently. It takes you a full year to come to grips with the fact that you have a problem. At this point, everyone panics. You start inventing new things to do. Salespeople start jumping ship. Product Managers roadmaps are thrown into flux. The first new management fad appears. The first of many.

When what you really should be is methodical. Surgical even.

The first step is really diagnosis aka “Root Cause Analysis.”

This is a technique I borrowed from my software engineering background, and applied it to the rest of business. You see, in software development after your webserver crashes, everyone freaks out and wants to know what happened. No, they demand to know what happened. 5 Why’s is a structured process to get to the why of what happened.

But before that, let’s start with a few simple questions:

  1. What are the hard data points and critical customer anecdotes (not everything is science) that convince us there is really a problem?

  2. Can I precisely describe the problem in a one-page document?

You need to pause. Reflect. Let’s ensure we agree on the problem. Most businesses fall down even here.

How can you diagnose the true root case if your teams are finger-pointing?

No one will accept the results of any analysis if they don’t agree on the problem.

businessRick Watson