in Business Design

Human-centered sales targets

Carol Hymowitz of the Wall Street Journal has been investigating aggressive revenue targets and the effects on employees, summed up by this quote from Roger King from Lloyd’s TSB Bank:

In over 30 years as a banker, I have seen the toll that the relentless pressure to turn in ever better quarterly and annual numbers has … on business and personal ethics, too.

I believe this is an area where design thinking can play a helpful role, refocusing attention away from Sales as the way to generate sales, and giving managers more creative methods for improving business. The numbers myopia — which I believe is typical of traditional management consulting — is illustrated by Cecily Franklin, formerly a manager at Consolidated Natural Gas and a vice president at Mellon Bank:

It is only possible, or safe, to lose weight slowly. … There comes a point when the goal is to STOP losing weight and work on maintaining it. It would be possible, though dangerous, to turn weight loss into a pure numbers game. By amputating an arm, one would clearly see numerical results, but one would also suddenly find it more difficult to do almost everything. And if a new ‘stretch’ goal arises, then another and another body part may need to be removed in order to replicate — notice I didn’t say sustain — those results. In the end, one would lose the capacity to function altogether.”

A beautiful aspect of design thinking is human-centeredness. A good business design solution would not consist of “push the problem down to the individual and let personal financial panic solve the problem.” Management needs the more creative solutions that design thinking can bring.