One of the biggest compliments I’ve received in my consulting life, and one that I have come to appreciate more with time, was from an American CEO who told me ‘I was providing the Return on Investment (ROI)’. I remember wondering for a few long seconds what exactly he had in mind, until he explained; it was in the context of a Viral Change programme. Before my involvement, the company had invested in a massive, traditional, top-down communication and ‘management of change’ system, at a high cost, with a Big Consulting group. To their greatest concern (and little surprise to me), they hadn’t seen much of a culture change happening. Viral Change™ was for them (and it is for everybody) a bottom-up, grassroots, peer-to-peer cultural change at scale … that works! And it was working very well indeed for them.
What that CEO said made sense to the people in the room (and they were the most senior in the company). They started nodding and it seemed for a bit that they did not have anything better to say. It was kind of cold, not cool. But then I understood. They had invested. The return was negligible. My team was at last providing the ROI that they needed, admittedly by picking up the pieces of the fiasco created by others. (Incidentally, this situation is far from rare).
I thought about the ‘you are providing the ROI’ many times afterwards and in different contexts. It became part of our internal jargon. I can think of worse ways to receive feedback from a client.
There are two questions that should be compulsory in a performance assessment review. One: ‘what ROI am I providing to the company?’ Two: ‘what is ROI to me, the return of my own (human capital) investment in this place?’ Performance appraisals should be a two-way street. Thinking and behaving like investors within the organization, makes sense. It’s one of the 30 Disruptive Ideas in my book.