Justification: noun jus·ti·fi·ca·tion \ˌjə-stə-fə-ˈkā-shən\
Meriram-Webster defines the term in the above ways. I find the term coming up in business more and more, and requests for things/people/budgets/time/etc. to be justified are coming in ways that they have not come up before. It used to be that an investment required a business case, to justify the expense. Now we hear about people and/or departments needing to justify their existence within an organization. And the new marketing/advertising model is to have the headline or even the picture that is meant to attract eyeballs justify having the reader click through and use their time reading an article.
Let’s break down the M-W definition. Point one describes vindication, or acceptable arguments for one’s behaviour and/or choices. I’m not even touching point number two. Point three is about text formatting, which in this case is not relevant. So the point I am exploring here is that in the corporate business world, we have fallen into a model that states that one must always have reasons for investing time, money, people, processing power, in any activity or in people. And if the reasons do not justify the investment, then it is a bad choice. But who makes the judgement?
It usually comes back to the executives: CEO and the C-Suite, VPs, Senior Leadership Team. They judge whether of not the investment is needed to accomplish the intended results. And it’s often arbitrary; the decision-making factors that are used are sometimes made up on the spot. The ideal is probably related back to the stated company strategy, assuming there is one. If the proposed investment will get the company closer to achieving its target goals, then it is a good choice: it is justified. If the investment has good reasons, but will not actually progress the company toward its targets, then it is a bad choice: it is not justified, and therefore no money should be spent on it, or the partnership should be abolished, or the department should be disseminated, or the staff should be fired.
But what if exogenous factors impact the results of these equations? Or the equation itself is flawed?
And on a smaller scale, it is happening every day with every commodity that can be spent, saved, or negotiated. We ask ourselves: why should I use my precious time …sitting through your presentation? Reading your blog? Watching this show? Have you ever exclaimed after a death-by-power-point meeting: those are two hours of my life I will never get back!
Money, time, even empathy, are all commodities we are more careful with these days. Should I invest myself to put myself in that person’s shoes to really understand their perspective? It takes effort, so I want to be sure there will be some return on my investment. Is there a likelihood we will get along better if I do? Is there a likelihood we can complete the transaction efficiently? Will they do the same for me?
So when someone asked me to justify the reasons for investing in centralized intelligence management software, I first thought of some of the above thread… there are great efficiencies that can be gained, cost savings, better use of time, sharing of knowledge. But the risks of not investing in it are the big kicker: what happens if we don’t, and our competitors do?! They will know more about us than we know about them, they will know more about the customers, the suppliers, the market trends, the regulations, and they will have a quicker path to product innovation, market share, and disruption.
Now I want to use that risk-avoidance method to address all the other justifications I have noted earlier.
And if all of that still doesn’t work? Better be sure you know your markets, or else your existence in the company will not be justified.
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