Achieve Exceptional Business Results – Buy a Vowel(s)!!!


Today’s guest post is from Anne Kohler, Executive Vice President and COO of The Mpower Group (TMG) and a contributor to the News U Can Use TMG blog.

Over the past year, as the economy has worsened and companies are being squeezed financially, we have heard the following from extremely frustrated clients and prospects (most of which are in Supply Chain or Sourcing):

  • “We have a process – no one is using it”
  • “We have spent millions on  technology and using only 20% of its capability”
  • “We have sent our people to training but they can’t  apply the knowledge”
  • “Results are not meeting expectations”
  • “Tactical demands overwhelm strategic initiatives”
  • “There is resistance outside of our group”
  • “Middle management is not on board”
  • “Every issue is an excuse to stop progress”
  • “Decision making is sloooow and gets in the way”
  • “Experiences are not captured and / or shared”

Could any of these quotes apply to your company?  If any or all of them do, you need to BUY A VOWEL(S)!

In a previous post from Dalip Raheja, “ Old MacDonald Was Right — It Is About E-I-E-I-O! “ he  wrote:

“The vowels are the most critical link between our alphabet and our language. Without vowels we don’t have words … we just have letters! Without words, we have no sentences, no language, no meaning, no intelligence — in short, we have nothing!  The vowels Dalip was referring to are  Adoption, Execution, Implementation, Optimization and Utilization.  Millions of dollars spent on people (talent, training, etc.), process (manuals, toolkits, knowledge management systems, etc.) and technology (ERP, eProcurement, eSourcing, etc.) won’t buy you business results without the vowels!!!  Now, follow Vanna White’s advice and BUY A VOWEL(S)!

In a nutshell, the vowels represent the enablers that must be in place for any new business process or technology to succeed.  Let me give you a simple example.  I purchase a new Mac computer for my family (we have always used a PC in the past), have it installed, get some basic training and then let it sit for 60 days.  When we start to use the Mac, we come across the following issues:

  • The family is upset because they do not understand why we switched to a Mac to begin with
  • We are fumbling around because the training was so long ago we forgot most of what we learned
  • We use the Mac for internet and email only and revert back to our old PC for all other applications
  • We keep making the  same mistakes over and over
  • We never learn to use the full functionality because it is just TOO Hard
  • We eventually sell the Mac to my brother and revert back to a PC

Is the problem the Mac itself, the training we received, the documentation on the Mac, our lack of technical capability or is it something else entirely?  I would suggest that it was the vowels that were the problem. Let me explain with a few illustrations:


  • Reason for buying the Mac was not sold to the family up front –  to prevent viruses which were constantly attacking our home PC (costly)
  • Needed to create burning platform in their minds to switch (insist they share in the cost associated  with NOT switching)
  • Needed to sell “what’s in it for them” by individual (the increased functionality was significant for everyone)


  • Needed to have more targeted training – it was too basic
  • Needed to make the time to learn the new functionality (remove the barriers to change)
  • Needed to take a leadership role in driving  my family to follow through on adopting the change


  • Needed to take full advantage of the instruction manual to help us discover hidden value
  • Needed to work with the Mac immediately after the training was delivered
  • Needed to remove the PC from the house to force adoption of the new technology


  • Needed to provide ongoing coaching and mentoring to reluctant users
  • Needed to develop a  fun  “case study” work to encourage the use of new applications
  • Needed to share “lessons learned” between us to prevent recurring mistakes


  • Needed to make  the discovery of hidden value a fun experience
  • Needed to use metrics to monitor and reward consistent usage
  • Needed to celebrate success

This is just a simple example from a personal perspective and you can see the number of issues that arose.  If you expand this to a business problem, the number of stakeholders increases and the  issues become exponentially more complex.  Therefore, the vowels become even more critical.

Most companies are so caught up in making sure they have the right process, people and technology(and many times they don’t do that particularly well)  they forget about what it really takes to extract the most value out of any change – the vowels!!!!  So, to be a success and achieve exceptional business results – BUY A VOWEL(S)!!!!!

Thanks, Anne!


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