Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

Needed: Terminators!

One of the most interesting assignments I ever had in my business career was when I was put in charge of 9 regional data center, each designed to serve the needs of the sales force in a particular region of the USA.  This was back in the late 1970’s when telecommunications capabilities were exploding.

It took me about 4 weeks to realize that none of these data centers deserved to exist.  Local sales personnel could just as easily teleprocess their orders to the main corporate data center, versus the regional data centers.  The regional data centers were designed to meet the needs of sales in a prior world of faxes and the mailing in or phoning in of orders.

I raised the issue of eliminating these data centers with the managers of these 9 data centers and they reacted as if I was the devil incarnate!  I learned quickly just how anti-change and fiefdom-oriented human beings fundamentally are.  On the other hand, the sales organizations loved the idea of teleprocessing orders directly to the corporate data center, massively speeding up the process of making a sale.

My management was initially shocked when I told them I had 270 people in 9 data centers, and I saw no need for any of the 270 jobs, nor my own job.  In fact, initially my boss reacted a bit like my direct reports; his fiefdom was being reduced.  My boss’s boss absolutely loved the idea, and that made my boss do a quick 180, and he promptly became a strong proponent!

Naturally, I felt very weird eliminating my own job; clearly I would no longer be needed.  On the other hand, I had confidence that when the phasing out was completed, and the savings realized, my management would find something for me to do, and that was the case.

What did I learn? In general, people who eliminate the unnecessary, and have a sense of urgency to run the place better, are valued.  You are sometimes called the terminator, but that comes with the territory!

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