The 70% Multiplier

The 70% Multiplier


This post was written with a Zimbabwean business audience in mind, however, it is highly applicable across any culture that has people who slack on the job. To keep the original tone, the Zimbabwean references were left intact.

My Client Relations Manager and I had a meeting with a client the other day. The client expressed to us that although I understood his desires, those in my company completely misunderstood them. After the meeting, I asked my colleague to evaluate the meeting’s success. He was pleased that we had completed most of our objectives and rated the encounter a 7 out of 10. He seemed satisfied—I was not.

When did a 70% job become the standard? That may have been a passing grade in school, but in a functional society it’s unacceptable. In Zimbabwe, we’ve become conditioned to substandard. The painter forgets to paint a wall? The repairman has no fuel? The funds were 2 months late but at least you got paid? You can’t make this stuff up!

We accept it because we’re all just happy to get by. But what if a pilot landed successfully 70% of the time? Or a surgeon got it right 70% of the time? I see two basic problems:

  1. I wouldn’t trust either of them.
  2. Their shortcomings directly affect the rest of us.

This would seem to illustrate that even basic mistakes can have a ripple effect. You see, my Client Relations man dropped the ball; he had failed to follow-up with the client and had miscommunicated the client’s specifications to our production team, who in turn had produced a great product that was off-base. This translated into a poor company image which now frames negative perceptions for future, prospective clients. Now we will have to work harder to disprove these perceptions.

The Chasm Of 70%

Let’s break this down into an illustration.

Let's assume there are three departments in a given organization: call them Client Relations Management (CRM), Marketing, and Production. Let's also assume that these departments are operating at 70% capacity; be it that they are distracted for 30% of the day, or they’re giving 70% effort.

You will notice that a large void develops at the center. This is the familiar WTF sector, the "I thought he said she said”, “I was not the one" scenario. This also means that for every three employees you require a fourth one to pick up the pieces, or on a larger scale, necessitates the formation of a fourth, unnecessary department. Most often this means that the boss has to descend and run around like a chicken with his head cut off to pick up the slack.

I'll Take That With A Side Of Bureaucracy, Please

Now in a linear organization it gets worse. Say, for example the Customer Relations team communicates 70% of the info to Production and Production does a 70% job on the 70% they were given, the cumulative reduction amounts to a 49% job. Which further reduces to a 34% image in the Marketing department. More bureaucratic organizations will reduce even further. Sadly, most in the organization still believe they are giving their best 70% effort—enough to get by. Confusion and stress abound in the middle, fostering deeper segregation. The effects of each dropped ball trickle down the chain, so that each other department must now work overtime to even achieve their normal 70%.

Everyday scenarios like this ultimately create voids in the market which new companies or foreign competitors are only too happy to fill. As a result, any deficits in your customer service, marketing, or production will allow competitors to gobble up your market share.

Fortunately the converse scenario is also true. Since each department’s and each employee’s efforts are linked, there is also a positive multiplier effect. So imagine if departments operating at full capacity were to overlap and stack upon each one another vertically. Eventually, people no longer have to work as hard to achieve more. Trust is built, so things operate at a high speed. This can all be achieved by better communication, greater collaboration, better accountability, more efficient systems, and of course, increased effort.

100% should be the standard for every firm in the industry: 100% market share—leaving no void in consumer needs; 100% excellence in production; maximal distribution, and complete communication.

Why can’t we all live up to that standard?