This is a five-part mystery:

  1. The mystery
  2. The call
  3. The investigation
  4. The solution
  5. The Happy Ending

Part 2 – The Call

    The meeting began first thing Monday morning.  All of the business presidents and the heads of the critical business functions were there.

   Each leader was asked to come prepared to discuss how their part of the company performed over the last year and to come with ideas for what needed to change in the next year to reverse the trajectory of the company’s financial performance.

   Mr. Under started the meeting with a short speech.  He wanted everyone to know that he believed that they were all working hard, doing everything they could to make the company successful.  “But”, Mr. Under said, “we have been working hard like this for some time.  Every year you promise me, and I promise the board and our shareholders, that this will be a record year.  And at the end of every year, I have to explain what went wrong.  We can’t keep on like this.  Something has to change.”  At the end of his speech Mr. Under asked for a volunteer to go first.

   Inn Venter, the head of engineering, was just waiting for her chance to go first and show everyone what good performance looked like.  Ms. Venter was very qualified having graduated in engineering from MIT and holding a PhD from Cal Tech.  She had delivered some great new products during her tenure.  Recently, though, some of the new products hadn’t performed as promised.

   Ms. Venter said, “I’d love to go first!” as she sprang to her feet and strode purposefully to the front of the room.  As she connected her super-powerful laptop (you could tell it was super-powerful because it was twice the size of the other laptops in the room) she thanked everyone for this opportunity to discuss her results first.  And, so, she began her review. 

   Ms. Venter’s presentation was quite long and very detailed with lots of numbers, graphs and bullet points about engineering’s financials.  As she reached the end, she summarized by saying, “And once again, as you can see from this slide, we not only met our financial target, but we beat it by 5%.  We are green, green, green.  (The company used a red-yellow-green system as a visual indicator of performance.) If any of you would like to know how my group did this, we would be happy to go through what we did this year in a lot more detail.”

   Mr. Under, brow furrowed, thanked Ms. Venter for her review, but, was thinking to himself, “Hmmm, this was exactly what we heard last year and the year before that.”

   Next up was P.R. Chase, head of purchasing.  Mr. Chase started by saying, “By way of introduction, we did such a good job this year that all of my managers were rewarded this year with a double bonus.  My people are just outstanding!”  He began his presentation by showing the company’s cost for parts was down by 5.7% versus the prior year.  Further, his revenue was up by an astounding 20%. 

   Mick Anick, the head of the service department, sat and fumed!  “Of course, your revenue is up!” he thought.  “You ‘sell’ parts to us so that we can service equipment in the field.  Most of the service this year was the result of a bad product launch.  My people had to spend most of their time this year fixing product that had failed in the field and they needed your parts to make the repairs!  This is ridiculous!”  But he kept quiet because rocking the boat was not looked on favorably.

   Mr. Chase ended his review by saying, “And, so, as you can see from this final summary slide, like engineering, we are green, green, green.”

   Cel M. Schtuph was the first business president to present results.  Mr. Schtuph led the consumer business which produced the lion’s share of the company’s revenue and he was very proud of his group’s performance.  He began by saying, “Our volume this year was up 12%, revenue was up 18%, we increased penetration in our markets by 20%.  By all our measures, we are green, green, green.”  Proudly, Mr. Schtuph presented slide after slide that validated his conclusion that his business was green, green, green.

   All the reviews went like this.  After 3 days, lots of coffee and cookies, lunches and dinners, lots and lots of slides shown as evidence of outstanding performance, everybody was green, green, green.  Any yet…the total business was red, red, red.  What’s worse, because all of the businesses and functions were performing great by their own measures, little in the way of what to do differently was discussed. 

   Mr. Under was worried.  It was obvious that nobody, including him, had a clue what to do.  He needed time to think.  He had a golf game that weekend with the CEO of a successful company.  Maybe he would have some ideas.

   That Saturday, Mr. Under played golf with Jocko Socko CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world.  Mr. Under kept his problems to himself as he listened to Mr. Socko extol the fantastic results of his company.  Mr. Under knew it was true because he owned stock in Mr. Socko’s company he had made a handsome profit seven years running. 

   By the eighth hole, Mr. Under couldn’t take it anymore.  Out came all his frustration.  For the next seven holes he told Mr. Socko his tale of woe.  At the end, he admitted he was stuck and didn’t know what to do to change it.

  Mr. Socko and Mr. Under played the last few holes in silence.  As they left the eighteenth green, Mr. Socko turned to Mr. Under and said, “Ten years ago I was in exactly the same situation you are in now.  I gave this guy a call.  He saved my company.”  Mr. Socko handed Mr. Under the business card of Si X. Cygmah.  “Give Si a call.  I guarantee you will not be disappointed.”

   On his return to the office on Monday, Mr. Under gave a call to Si X. Cygmah.


Stay tuned for Part 3 – The investigation


If you would like to request a listening session for your business, you can contact me, George Strodtbeck, by email at