Technology is the #1 clue of dysfunctional companies during interviews

My 31-year career has allowed me to work for some amazing companies like Bombardier, Accenture, West Monroe Partners, etc. plus provided me with an opportunity to work for over 70 companies as a consultant, and a handful of these consulting clients were amazing.  I have also been an employee of a few companies where I think God put me there to learn how not to do things.

The biggest trait of a g great company is its leadership and these companies have a process in place to constantly churn out great leaders with a formal leadership development plan that spans over multiple years.  When Jim Collins and his team setup the research that led to the book, “Good to Great”, they did not have “leadership” as one of the categories of research. As they narrowed the list of companies through the identified research criteria, they realized that there was one more common thread between these handful of great companies which was leadership, hence they added a chapter on Leadership in the book.

When the leadership is weak at an organization, it will never be a great place to work even though the company could be a very profitable market darling where on the surface the leadership looks very good.  The leadership at these companies fails to do two things which is the responsibility of each leader:

  1. Fiscal responsibility
  2. Building amazing teams

When leaders fail to develop a culture of greatness or develop amazing teams, they try to compensate with substandard trinkets and activities especially at profitable organizations.  The #1 clue to look for during the interview process is the technology that the company is using, and then judge if the company is using the technology for the sake of using technology or does the technology actually solve a real business need.

In one instance, it does make sense to spend money on technology like water.  If your company is a technology company, then you can overspend on technology because the company has to practice what they preach.  In the other 95% of the instances, the company should do a proper cost benefit justification to really see if the technology is needed to make an improvement.

While at Bombardier, when we did a huge transformation project known as Bombardier Manufacturing System, we communicated with all our employees that we need 5 elements to do business transformation – I have since added a 6th element based on my work after Bombardier.

The 6 elements for business transformation in prioritized sequence are:

  1. Strategy
  2. Organization
  3. Process
  4. People
  5. Technology
  6. Measurements (added after my work at Bombardier)

The reason that we used to have technology at the bottom at Bombardier is because technology is just an enabler.  If you do not have the first 4, it would never work plus it is expensive to implement and maintain after the implementation.

I spent most of my career as a business transformation leader improving organizations businesses and these projects were sometimes enabled by technology.  We as a consulting organization always made more money when technology implementation was part of the project. We always used the following 4 guidelines to determine if the cost of technology could be justified, if here was not a clear yes, then we did not invest in the technology.

  1. Increases the top line
  2. Reduces the bottom line
  3. Improves the quality of the product or service
  4. Improves the quality of the employee

In your interviewing process, if you see people using fancy computer, monitors and tablets laying all over the place, take a moment to think if you were the leader in the group, would you be spending all the money on the technology because it makes the company achieve one of the 4 reasons listed above….. or is this the work of weak managers to hide behind toys and trinkets since they cannot create the environment required to build the culture that delivers amazing results?