Friday, July 6, 2012

If You Can’t Explain It, Don’t Do It

I was intrigued but not surprised to see Microsoft’s recent $6.2 billion write-down of its 2007 acquisition of aQuantive.

I was a senior enterprise strategy advisor with Microsoft in 2007 when it acquired aQuantive, a then-premium name in the digital marketing service and technology space. While the deal was being consummated, the rank and file were all ecstatic about how this acquisition would enable Microsoft to catch up and potentially leapfrog Google’s advertising-driven revenue model.

As a strategy advisor and technology architect, I am motivated less by emotion and more by measurable outcomes.

In essence, what matters to me is “How do you know?”.

And so while everyone kept telling me how wonderful this deal would be for Microsoft, people could not give me a single piece of measurable data  that backed up their excitement.

Emotion ruled the day and I was left wondering what such an investment would produce.

It turns out that it didn’t produce much at all.

While this write-down doesn’t hurt Microsoft’s stock price, it’s a reminder to others that if you can’t explain what the reason is for doing something then you may be better off not doing it.

If you can’t explain it, there’s a good chance you don’t understand it.  If you don’t understand it … well … why are you even bothering or better yet, why are you risking the resources and future of others with your lack of understanding?

Sadly, there are a lot more bad business ventures out there than we would like to admit that cannot explain why they are doing what they are doing or why they are doing it the way they are doing it.

And even if one has an answer, we should always be prepared to submit it to scrutiny, to either strengthen the approach or allow people to bail out before too many people get hurt.

The worst scenario I ran into in this regard was a company burning through tens of millions of dollars without a shred of strategy or a plan of any kind.


Because, according to the owner, having a plan is an insult to God and His plan to guide these people to ultimate success.

Unfortunately, his investors don’t know that his plan is to have no plan.

Those investors aren’t asking enough questions either.

When it comes to not asking enough questions, not asking the right ones or not submitting one’s self to appropriate outcome-focused scrutiny, companies like “the Big M” can survive an occasional write-down on a huge scale when mistakes occur.

The question is ….

…. how many can you survive?

And when people like me come along asking questions or making observations that may make you feel uncomfortable, there may be a reason for the discomfort that is worth exploring.

It may be an invitation to strengthen why you are doing what you are doing and how you are doing it ….

…. but only if you’re open to exploring it

…. if not, you may be this guy.


Denial or in some cases, outright ignorance, are not a platform for success.

If that were the case, success would be easier to manifest and a lot more common.

In service and servanthood,


No comments:

Post a Comment