What do I want my Epitaph and Legacy to Be?

December 15, 2008
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Have you ever played around with the self-improvement exercise of writing your own obituary or epitaph? It is intended to give you a broader perspective of the meaning of your life.

I fear that someone will write my epitaph as: “Here lies Gary Cokins, who died a failure because his quixotic quest to convince organizations to adopt and integrate performance management methodologies fell on deaf ears.”

I believe that people make decisions based


Have you ever played around with the self-improvement exercise of writing your own obituary or epitaph? It is intended to give you a broader perspective of the meaning of your life.

I fear that someone will write my epitaph as: “Here lies Gary Cokins, who died a failure because his quixotic quest to convince organizations to adopt and integrate performance management methodologies fell on deaf ears.”

I believe that people make decisions based on old rules of thumb, intuition or misleading information. Traditional theories in business abound. For example, most sales people believe that the largest customers in sales volume are also the most profitable. But when the non-product cost-to-serve information is accounted for, it is clear that high-maintenance customers can erode profits compared to low-maintenance ones who do not cause extra work. As another example, marketers believe that future customers that are easy to acquire and also retain are the best targets. But this is based on a false assumption that acquisition and retention costs are the primary drivers of customer profitability. A research study reported in the Harvard Business Review proved they are not.

To really understand what is going on and what can happen, you have to go beyond traditional beliefs and complacent thinking. That means getting to the underlying causes that drive outcomes. Just as scientists build computer models to understand interactions, such as astronomers studying gravitational effects of heavenly bodies, organizations should escalate their application of analytics to model behavior. But alas, management science is more art than science. What is the problem with organizations?
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