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Take Your Medicine!

July 23, 2014 | By John Donlon

Recently, one of my office-mates − let’s call him Bill − shared the news that his dog was sick, and that the vet had prescribed some medicine. The vet wasn’t sure what was wrong with the dog, but Bill hoped that the medicine would help.

Unfortunately, Bill had a really tough time getting his dog to take the medicine. First, he tried slipping the pill into the dog’s food, but the wily canine refused to eat it.

Take Your MedicineNext, Bill tried putting the pill in the dog’s mouth and holding it shut until he was sure that the dog had swallowed. Again, he was outsmarted − walking away, he would inevitably hear a “clink” behind him on the kitchen floor where the dog dropped the pill.

Eventually, Bill discovered dog treats that have a compartment to hide pills. They worked like a charm – the dog happily ate them and got better in no time. The dog thought he was getting something yummy, and all the while he was getting something good for him. Naturally, that got me thinking about instantiating process improvement techniques in sales and marketing.

I know, I know − you were thinking the same thing!

So here’s the problem. Disciplined process improvement approaches that have worked for the factory floor – like Lean and Six Sigma – are just as effective for sales, marketing and product. But applying them in those worlds is still relatively unexplored territory.

At SiriusDecisions, I try to highlight these approaches to help people be more effective. However, I often wrestle with whether or not to use the established language of the process world. On one hand, adopting the existing terminology creates a common language, which can be extremely useful, especially at companies that are already process-oriented. In most cases, though, learning the new language is difficult and creates another barrier to what feels like an incongruous realm.

So what’s the better way forward − be upfront about the medicine, or slip it in under the guise of something else?

What experiences have you had in similar situations? Was it worth the uphill battle to establish a new nomenclature around your initiative, or did it make more sense to hide it and use terms people were more familiar with? Leave your comments below. Here’s your chance to get me to stop using nerdy process terms forever!


John Donlon

John Donlon is VP, product management at SiriusDecisions. A recognized thought leader in marketing operations, he has more than 20 years of experience in information technology, process improvement, and measurement and reporting. Follow John on LinkedIn or Twitter @B2BJD.
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