Almost a Guarantee:
The 1% Drill

I did an in-company seminar in the UK several years ago, for a mid-sized firm. ($50 million?) A generalist consultant was my co-presenter; to be more accurate, he did the first two-thirds of the day, and I provided the (hopefully) grand finale.

At about 2 p.m. he called an abrupt halt to things, and said, “I want to make sure I cover my full fee today, and then some. We’re going to stop and do a 45-minute exercise.”

He explained that any operation can at any time cut one-percent of their budget. (We all have flab, regardless of circumstances.) Though I, in general, (vehemently) oppose across-the-board cuts, I have absolutely no problem with the 1% idea. He then broke the group up by function; about five functions were represented, as I recall. He gave the groups just 30 minutes to identify their team’s 1%. Then he had the groups report in public for 2 or 3 minutes each—this public recitation, he told me, raised the odds of execution; it also provided others’ ideas.

Indeed the groups readily identified their 1% and reported accordingly—there was actually no bitching.

I called and asked him a couple of months later how things had turned out. (He was a regular advisor to the company, and a coach, though the term really didn’t exist in business yet, to the CEO. He said there was almost uniform success—and a couple of groups had decided to repeat the exercise on their own every few months. Given his closeness to the CEO, and my more general judgment, I’d guess he gave me an accurate report.

Times are tough as we all know. I want to urgently suggest that, despite recent cost cutting you’ve probably done, you try this exercise. (For consultants of any flavor that goes double—especially good to provide almost guaranteed value in excess of your fees.)

Tom Peters posted this on March 9, 2009, in Strategies.
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