The ROI of Follow-Up

Making time to review earlier proposals and decisions is hard… very hard.   But it’s still one of the best time investments a leader can make.

When operating budgets are squeezed, we usually cut the training budget first.  It’s an easy target because there is little visible, immediate impact.  When time is squeezed, we usually cut follow-up reviews. Follow-up is an easy target because we tell ourselves we’ll get back to those reviews… when there’s time.  So, when will that be?  And how much might delay cost?

The Hidden Cost Of Delay

I was once asked to follow-up on a prior acquisition that was now several months past its first scheduled review.  The Controller’s response began with some hemming and hawing, then he disclosed that they hadn’t prepared a review because:  “The operation hasn’t stabilized yet.”

Integrating their IT systems had stalled, crippling operating results.  The project leader hoped to get matters under control before sending a report to the CEO.  While their IT troubles were unfortunate, keeping that trouble under wraps was tragic.  They had learned important lessons for beefing-up future IT due diligence yet had not shared them.  As it turned out, a more recent acquisition team would have avoided painfully similar frustrations had the warning gone out.  I recalled the quote:

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” – Derek Bok

Best Practice:  Carve It In Stone

Improvement will be agonizingly slow until we diligently review our experiences: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Armed with new lessons, we’ll consistently improve investment decisions, increase profits and boost ROI.

The best time to set a review date is when the project receives its approval with clear expectations of what the review should include — carve it in stone and delegate someone to make it happen.  Finally, (and a gentle word to the executives here) don’t sabotage your decree by rescheduling those meetings as other matters claw for your attention.  We all have smart folks who quickly realize of that follow-up isn’t a priority and odds are it won’t happen, especially if the news is not good — but isn’t that the most valuable news?

© Dave Wittenberg