I’m Sorry, But Your Duck is Dead

A friend and advisor sent a story a few weeks ago.  He has a weird sense of humor maybe that is why we get along so well.  Here is the story.

A well-respected veterinary surgeon, close to retirement age, had a practice at the edge of town.  One day a man brought a very limp duck into his office.  As the pet owner laid his pet, Cuddles, on the table, he asked the surgeon to help the pet duck.  The vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird's chest.  After a moment or two, the vet shook his head and sadly said, "I'm sorry, your duck, Cuddles, has passed away.  I cannot help you."

The distressed man asked, "Are you sure?"  "Yes, I am sure. Your duck is dead," replied the vet.  "How can you be so sure?" the duck’s owner protested. "I mean you haven't done any testing on him or anything. He might just be in a coma or something."

The vet said nothing, turned around, and left the room.  He returned a few minutes later with a black Labrador retriever.  As the duck's owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. He then sat back on his haunches, looked up at the vet with sad eyes, and shook his head.

After a moment or two, the vet shook his head and sadly said, "I'm sorry, your duck, Cuddles, has passed away.  I cannot help you."  “How can you be so certain?” the man again asked, “besides, what does a dog know about ducks?”

The vet said nothing, turned around, and left the room with the dog.  He returned a few minutes later with a cat.  The cat jumped on the table, and delicately sniffed the bird from head to foot.  The cat sat back on its haunches, shook its head, meowed softly and strolled out of the room.

The vet looked at the man and said, "I'm sorry, but as I said, this is most definitely, 100% certifiably, a dead duck."  At that, the vet turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the man. 

The duck's owner, still in shock, took the bill. "$150!" he cried, "$150 just to tell me my duck is dead!"  The vet shrugged, "I'm sorry. If you had just taken my word for it, the bill would have been $20, but with the Lab Report and the CAT scan the bill is now $150."

Now, here is the rest of the story.  I had just spoken with Don and explained how frustrated I was by a call for help.  A CEO called and asked would I buy an ERP system and only use the accounting system from it.  After asking a number of questions, we discussed a number of points, and in total, spent about 2-1/2 hours discussing his business and his points.  For an additional 30 minutes, he attempted to defend his desire to add an accounting system to his job management tool.  The tool allowed him to track all the required FDA compliances for a food product.  He wanted to add an accounting system from the ERP package to that job-tracking tool. 

The tool was less than a system.  It had no planning, no scheduling, and no inventory management capabilities.  It did not have an order entry piece nor did it have the ability to ship products.  All of the additional pieces he admitted were necessary to manage any business effectively. 

After explaining the shortcomings of not using a ‘business manage system’, we discussed if a better strategy might be to find an ERP System that performed the job management functions his current system did.  At that point, he became irate, stated that no system would do what his current system did, because he built it himself and he quickly ended the call.  

After explaining the discussion to the advisor, we chatted about hockey, the kids, and arranged a lunch meeting for the following week.  A short while later, he sent the duck story with a note that said, “Send it to that CEO looking for an accounting package.”

I did.  A few days later, I got a call from the CEO.  He said he read the joke and thought and thought and thought about it.  He called to ask why I sent the joke.

I explained to him that like the vet, I was also a professional with a great deal of experience working with companies wanting to select, implement, and improve their business management tools.  The CEO was like the pet owner asking for help, and not just an opinion. 

My understanding of ERP Systems, my questions, and discussions ought to have convinced the CEO that his strategy was ill defined.  What he really wanted was someone to direct his effort and to help him understand that adding the hooks for an accounting system would not really help grow the business.  I hoped my suggestions would not be ignored.  To understand the benefits, the CEO had to understand that a production management tool and an accounting package did not create an ERP Package.  His desire to grow the business would come from an ERP System.  (To read about our ERP education, read “What ERP will do To and For Your Organization”.)  

That second call from the CEO was the one seeking help.  We arranged a remote education sessions about what an ERP System is and what it will do for and to the company.  Only the top management team attended.

After the sessions, the CEO better understood that his job-tracking/accounting tool was not a system to help move the company forward.  He was convince and now I need to wait to see if his management team still thinks an ERP System is the tool to help them manage their business.  My faith in the education process is re-affirmed.  Isn’t education wonderful?


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