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Where Is Your Business Prevention Department?

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Where Is Your Business Prevention Department?

I recently attended a meeting with a data analytics specialist – seeking some Information Technology (IT) solutions for the environmental company of which I am a director.  Amongst other things, we were discussing the possibility of adding a feature to our website which would allow clients to log in and view or retrieve data and reports from their environmental monitoring programmes.

My business partner raised the fact that many of these clients are large, multinational resources companies or Government departments, with strict IT rules. So strict in fact, that many projects involving IT never see the light of day, despite their potential to deliver huge benefits.  They simply grind to a halt, waiting for approval from the IT Department, and gradually fade away.

“Ahhhh … the Business Prevention Department”, sighed the data specialist.

Everyone laughed, having all been on the receiving end of the Business Prevention Department (BPD) at one point or another. I am, of course, very well aware that large organisations have to be particularly careful about digital disruption through fraud, hacking, virus attacks and so on.  But I have also seen the IT manager of an organisation almost go into hysterics over a SIM card for a mobile phone.   

The shifting Business Prevention Department

Although we were referring to the IT Department in the meeting, the Business Prevention Department (BPD) does not live in one specific spot on the Organisation Chart.  It can morph into many different forms, and like a virus, infect any department, division, or even an individual member of the firm.

The BPD is highly risk-averse, and says “NO” with ease.  It is seen by others as a roadblock – an obstacle stopping the business from achieving the best possible results.  BPDs can decrease productivity, increase costs, and destroy morale. In fact, I’m sure you can almost hear them reciting the Business Prevention Department anthem, “We’ve always done it that way around here”. 

The BPD invites a level of cynicism and even ridicule when it comes up in conversations – just like the chuckles in the meeting with the data specialist.  A common reaction is “What’s the use of us coming up with innovative ideas if we’re not allowed to implement anything”?

But where is the BPD in your company?

However, perhaps we should not laugh too loud until we examine our own companies.  Do you perhaps also have your own Business Prevention Department?  Remember that it can be quite sneaky, and disguise itself with a cloak of reasonable excuses, so how do you know for sure? 

“The Business Prevention Department can disguise itself with a cloak of reasonable excuses”

Look through your customers’ eyes

The best way to identify your own Business Prevention Department is to look at and experience your business through your customers’ eyes.  If you ask your friend to phone your office, what happens?  Was their call returned?  And was the person returning the call actually helpful and friendly?”

If your friend visits your office, are they ignored (as I was recently in a retail store)?  Do all your team members uphold your company’s values, ethics and brand? Or do they find it easier to say “No”, rather than “Let me see if we can fix that for you”?

The list of questions could go on, but you get the idea. You will almost certainly find at least one manifestation of the BPD lurking somewhere in your organisation.  But once you’ve located yours, you don’t have to completely dismantle it. 

Don’t eliminate, just tame it

Like the big company IT department, your own BPD is trying to limit risk – either to an individual or the organisation as a whole. It’s when the risk aversion starts to harm, rather than protect, the organisation, that things need to change. Your task as a business owner is to corral the BPD, and tame it so that only the healthy, protection activities are left in action.

In short, what you need to do is turn your Business Prevention Department into a fully functional Business Promotion Department.

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