Pantry View (Issue 746)

In which we are reminded that one of the main purposes of our client “discovery” conversations is to help them take a fresh look at how they’re managing their operations.

Broom clean. When one is selling one’s home in Massachusetts, the Contract for Purchase and Sale calls for the house or condo to be left in “broom clean condition” – all personal property removed and, at a minimum, floors swept clean.

By the morning before our scheduled buyer walk through, our muscle-and-move team had extracted all of our furniture and personal effects from the house. Time to turn our attention from moving plants and packing up clothing, china, and other flotsam to “broom clean,” closet by closet, shelf by shelf, room by room.

Now, we have been careful, consistent cleaners during our 18 years in the house and yet…. it’s surprising what one finds when all ‘personal effects’ are removed. Take the food pantry, for example. While we’re not survivalists, we keep a full larder, as the old phrase goes. Canned goods, dry mixes, pasta, bottled this and that. The front view – shelves fully stocked, well organized. splatter

Turns out, however, that the field mice that typically seek shelter from the cold and snow during the winter months had acquired a taste for the Cadburys Milk Chocolate and other delicacies, leaving behind mouse bits; empty, well chewed packaging material; and a mélange of dried liquids and sauces that had dripped slowly down the back wall of the pantry. In other words, the back of the pantry looked like a painting created by splashing buckets of paint against a vertical canvass. Mouse art!!!!

But who knew? None of this could be seen from the front of the pantry and (either because our senses of smell are dulled or because the ventilation is particularly good in that pantry) we’d not smelled any of it, either. It wasn’t until we HAD to remove everything that we came face to face with the realities. Why hadn’t we pulled everything out of there before? Not a happy discovery.

Our clients face similar challenges. From their perspective, looking at their operations from the front, everything may look fine. Their operations may be running efficiently and smoothly or… maybe not and they are in denial. Or they might be ill-informed – their employees may be going through all kinds of extra work or wasted effort out of sight in the back of the house in order to make everything look good to their bosses who look in from the front.

The trick is to know the challenges clients face in a particular area and then to ask discovery questions and make personal observations that prompt clients to ‘pull all the stuff out of the pantry’ so they can see with fresh eyes and unobscured vision what’s going on BEHIND the pretty view from the front. THEN, they might say, ‘oh, my, that’s….a problem,” at which point we can start a discussion about whether it’s worth fixing the problem and whether they need us to assist them.

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