Information and a Call to Action.
Recently we did a Podcast with Mets Kramer where we talked about the “Digital Dealership.” Then we had a Candid Conversation with Ryszard Chciuk on his work experiences in Poland over the past forty years. Then I caught up with Ed Gordon and we talked about “Job Shock” which is his passion. All of this takes me to Data and Information.
Over my lifetime we have gone from “Data” Processing to “Information” Technology. We have changed the name but I am afraid to say we have changed little else. I remember mounds of paper with all manner of data on them. No Information. Today I still see mounds of Data and perhaps a bit more Information. However, I don’t see, from either the Data or the Information, any call to action.
I recently reread a book by George Friedman and his team called “The Intelligence Edge” with a subtitle of “How to Profit in the Information Age.” It was written in 1997. Sadly, I don’t see much in the way of success in the Industries in which I work to have learned enough about this subject. We have made incredible strides in how we have transformed data into information. I myself can attest to that truth. However, what knowledge have we gained from all of this information?
Looking back, I suspect that we have become over-sensitized from the pains of the early 1980s when inflation ran away and then tandem of Ronald Reagan and Paul Volker finally got us out of the inflation bubble by inflicting high interest rates on us. That transformed most of the Capital Goods world by a rather shortsighted solution of reducing headcount. I know it was necessary for us to be able to survive with such punitive interest rates, however, in many ways, we are still suffering the consequences of that action. We don’t have enough people. I have seen altogether too many dealerships that focus on headcount. I am coming to believe that the result of this action is like cutting off your leg and telling your mother how successful you have been at losing weight. Yes, it is true that you weigh less than you did but you now have to function with only one leg. Hardly as effective as functioning with two legs.
I see the same thing in how we operate today with information. First of all, most of the information we get is Financial Information. While I agree that the financials are important. Yet they tell us about things that have happened but much about where we are today nor where we are going. Yet where is the Management Information that we need? Where do I find Market Share from the Parts Business or the Service Business? Where do I find the replacement schedules of equipment working in the field? I don’t see that Information anywhere in the dealerships.
Which people on the payroll are doing that research? Who is working with that information to deliver it to the leadership of the departments and the dealerships? Does the leadership get early warnings of things to come or the necessary action to take? I don’t see these employees in any of the dealers that I have been around. Sure, there are Marketing Departments. But I don’t see them providing this information. I see them maintaining websites and perhaps newsletters. Important work I agree but there is more to marketing than advertising and trade shows. I am talking about what the book calls “Intelligence.” Yes, like the CIA. Information gathering, creating processes and systems to collect and collate and consolidate information. Then to produce this information as a form of intelligence that can be acted upon.
“The Mortal Enemy of Intelligence is Time and Wishful Thinking.” This is a famous Friedman quote. He goes further in the book. “The ability to see the consequences of actions clearly, even when the perception run counter to conventional wisdom, requires courage and a willingness to be alone.” This is the struggle of the “Pioneer” isn’t it? The people who go out front. Blaze a new trail to somewhere. It takes courage to go off into the unknown. “Sometimes it requires courage to be wrong.” That might mean in the sense of the Pioneers, their death. Without them, however, where would we all be today?
Let me bring this thought process to an end this way from the book. “The will to believe that what the facts reveal, and the courage to act on those facts, is the foundation of success in all endeavors.”
I believe it is time we set up Intelligence thinking in every department and every dealership. Find the data and transform it into information. Then use that information in combination with intelligence to take action and strive to succeed.
The time is now.
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