Saturday, December 06, 2008


Excellence is meeting the spec - among other things

I find myself re-visiting the Tom Peters website again today to check on a current discussion about the latest of his regularly published lists. This one was in response to a client request for 5 bullets about a forthcoming presentation by TP, to be used for marketing purposes. In response, Peters had produced 27 bullet points, which I suggested, rather brusquely, was 22 more than asked for, and not necessarily a good thing. Some agreement followed, but then a lot of stuff about whether short was better than long, which even took us off into poetry. I suggested, again, that meeting the brief (five bullet points) was the issue, not whether a haiku was better than a sonnet - which anyway are both short forms of poetry. A writer who turns in 8000 words against a request for 1500 hasn't done five times better than wanted, or vice versa. It's not a size thing, it's a delivery against spec thing. A keeper of the flame then intervened to propose that the client would anyway have known that they would get a long list from TP, and bless me if Peters himself didn't agree! "They would have been surprised if they'd gotton (sic) less than 10." In which case I'm surprised the client didn't just say "give us one of your lists Tom", or "chuck some bullet points our way, you decide how many". But they asked for five, presumably because some marketing squaddie had been told to get an ad, brochure or web page ready, and to block out a space that five bullet points could reasonably fit into. I'd love to see what that brochure looked like with 27 points on it...

To produce 27 points anyway seems remarkably unhelpful on various levels, not least in that these points were supposed to be practical steps someone could take to transform their business. No-one is going to apply 27 points. It's like having 27 key objectives - all over the place. No-one can communicate 27 of anything to their team. No-one can remember 27 points either. To suppose that the client is going to select their favourite five is just abrogating responsibility - the client wants to say (presumably) that these are Peters' top picks, not their own. And, dammit, 27 is just nowhere near five, not even close.

[BTW, Peters' previous post had been extolling the absolute centrality of good design, which didn't even appear in his 27 points.]

It all smacks to me of a distance from reality, or privileged "clients-will-take-anything-if-it's-got-my-name-on" status that I had not suspected Tom Peters of suffering from. I have posted on his forum again (exerpt below) and will see what if anything comes back that doesn't sound like hefty post-rationalising. Meanwhile back to the real world where if a client asks for five they get five, and "by next Tuesday" doesn't mean next Friday is okay.

"bingo's plainly the name of the game here, where a client asks for five, when really they would be disappointed with less than ten, and in the event gets 27. And everyone's okay, or at least saying they are. I think we will have to differ on this one, Tom. Seems to me it's like saying why be content with just one USP when you could have twelve"


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