No one remembers the footnotes

Recently, I attended a strategic governance meeting with a client, in which the joint teams presented the status of a critical program being reviewed by execs from both sides. The best practice which I have seen to work well happens when both teams co-own and work together to deliver the expected outcome. There is no us and them. What matters are the results and expected benefits to the ultimate end customers, and everything else must align to meet those objectives. Critical programs will have many twists, turns and dependencies, and require a high intensity to bring all of them together.

In that meeting, one of the important aspects for the critical program presented had a deliverable date marked with an (*). This was later explained in the document as being dependent on the availability of some key resources from the client and some dependencies on a third party. It was amazing to observe the response to the (*)… There was none! There were absolutely no responses or comments on the (*) or the dependencies whatsoever. It was clearly expected that the teams would be able to deal with the situation and find alternative means, should any issues arise, so as to not impact the final deliverables and timelines. The key discussions were focused to ensure that all were aligned to achieving the final result. The main activities and dependencies were discussed and actioned out. No one looked at the (*) and footnotes.

We have all come across (*) and footnotes: points written at the bottom of reports, contracts, presentations, etc. which no one remembers. We have all signed loan documents, mortgage contracts, etc. which have so many fine points, but do we remember them? Do we even bother to read or care about them? All we know and remember are the big bold points – the interest rates, principal amounts, duration and maybe one or two other key clauses. Also, what the discussions are mostly about is certainly not about what is written with (*) or in the footnotes. No one remembers the footnotes; no one remembers what the (*) marks. Other than legal notes, disclaimers or attributing key references, the (*) and footnotes have no relevance in a business discussion context. Do they?

Business and Leadership are similar in nature. No one remembers the fine print, the (*) and footnotes. Everyone is aligned to achieving the common objectives, the big bold moves, why the end results should happen, why the program should succeed, how to make a difference, what the big picture is, etc. At the end, that is what makes a winning team, that is what makes a winner – as they focus on big bold moves rather than worrying about the fine print or (*) contingencies. No one remembers the footnotes.

Tagged with: , , , , , ,