Part III: "Failure is not an option."

(excerpted from The Pipeline)

“This is the direction in which RB Builders is headed”, said the CEO, “and your choice to continue your cynicism has a life expectancy of about 30 more seconds.”

The intrepid, results-based consultant looked over at the senior superintendent, shrugged, and said, “Now, that – that was a speech.

“I do agree with your point”, she said, turning her attention back to the CEO. “But, you know, it is possible to fail, without being the least bit cynical about its prospects. I would say this: Whether you are cynical or not, change is up to you. Whether any of this works or not, is up to each of you individually, all of you collectively.

“If I did not believe RB Builders would make it work, I would not be here, my firm would not accept you as a client. We would not waste our time. After all, my firm and I have a bigger dog in this fight than anyone else.

“When we started out on this little adventure, I told you that my consulting firm would be compensated on the same performance basis as everyone else”, she reminded them. “I told you that there was no limit to the time and effort my firm – and I personally – would expend to achieve the outcomes we targeted together. I told you that I would work hand-in-hand with you, and do whatever it takes to achieve those goals. I assured you that I would do whatever it took to foster a willingness and capacity for change, create a sustainable capability for implementing the things that would continuously improve operating performance and business outcomes, increase innovation and learning, and make you less dependent on all of your consultants. I told you, from the standpoint of how the credit was attributed, that I was content to remain in the background.

“Those were the assurances I gave you”, she said. “In return, I sought and received assurances from you.

“You agreed that this was a true client-consultant partnership, and that – because my firm’s compensation was completely results-based, of finite duration, and self-funding – my firm was assuming the higher level of risk. You agreed that this new, results-focused consulting arrangement we were jointly undertaking provided ample incentive to everyone for taking action, making changes, and improving operating performance and business outcomes.

“I told you that I was as serious as a heart attack about getting results. I made it clear that I had no intention of wasting my firm’s time and effort. I told you that you did not have to do everything I told you, but that you did have to come to terms with me, take action, make needed changes, and do whatever it took to achieve the targeted results. Although I have grown rather fond of most of you, I made it clear that, if there was no action, no change, no results, then – out of principle alone – heads needed to roll.

“A couple of stories.

“My younger sister played NCAA Division II soccer in college. As a junior and senior, she was her team’s captain, so, her junior year, before the season began, a reporter asked for her prediction about the season, specifically, what kind of W-L record she thought her team would have, as a measure of success.

“My sister replied: “I don’t plan to lose any games”.”

“When my dad was younger, he sailed a lot of offshore races. According to him, it would get dangerous, sailing offshore at night, in rough seas. He says that they all used to remind each other, only half-jokingly, I think, that – where they were – if their boat went down, no one was going to blame them if they drowned.

“But – they knew they would still be dead, if they just sat there.

“Trust me, no one outside of RB Builders cares whether you succeed or not. No one else cares whether you separate yourselves from your competition. No one else cares whether you keep your jobs. Nobody else cares about your livelihood or your future. Nothing new in that revelation. Back in the “Age of Homebuilder Entitlement”, nobody cared, either. It was just never an issue, because being good enough was good enough. Success is no longer such a foregone conclusion. No one cares, but no one is going to blame you.

“But – that does not change the outcome.

“I can just hear it now”, said the intrepid, results-based consultant. “Poor things. What a great company RB Builders could have been. It was all just too much for them to handle, housing’s version of The Apocalypse. But, it is not their fault.

“Nope. Nobody is going to blame you, if you go out of business. But, that is just what you will be – out of business.

“Failure is not an option. Not for me. Not for any of you.”