What Can Historical Figures Teach Us About Enterprise Performance Management?

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Editor's Note

The function of L&D has historically been focused on conducting learning and training, not in aligning learning strategies with the core business strategy.

When learning and development initiatives are viewed as part of the enterprise's holistic strategy, they have the potential to increase workforce productivity and have measurable impact on ROI.

In order for organizations to transform the performance of their business in today's ever-changing environment, L&D teams must establish themselves as an agent of organizational change, anticipating future business needs on the strategic and functional level. 


Enterprise performance management (EPM) is a process and software system designed to help organizations (i.e., companies, government entities, educational institutions and non-profits) align their strategies to the business plans and execution.

Achieving the full vision of an enterprise performance management (EPM) framework involves more than selecting one of its many methods and then purchasing software to install and implement the solution; It requires individuals with talent and skills.

See how some of the greatest leaders in history have exemplified the traits valuable to achieving that full vision.

Asking Questions

An effective way to help people learn is by asking them questions that lead to meaning. Socrates taught Plato and other Greek philosophers by making them think about answers to his questions rather than just lecturing.

For example, asking “Does our organization measure the correct indicators that reveal progress toward achieving our strategic objectives?” is more stimulating than simply providing a list of commonly accepted industry metrics.

Dissent and Growing Talent

Orson Welles wrote, directed and starred in the lead role of Citizen Kane, a movie often cited by critics as one of the greatest cinema works ever.

Welles always challenged the status quo with constructive dissent, and he discovered and grew exceptional talent. Dissent and growing talent both contribute to improving organizational performance.

Focus and Concentration

Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus–These golfers demonstrated how focus and concentration in golf yield results.

Enterprise performance management involves focusing and prioritizing on where to make improvements rather than trying to be effective everywhere which can distract resources from efforts where they can have higher-yield impacts.


Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Benny Goodman–It's a rare gift to pen onto a blank music sheet from one’s brain combinations of notes that so many of us cherish as music. These five composers introduced innovation (and coincidently an identifiable American sound).

Innovation is an entry ticket to improve performance. The realization of performance improvement with good strategy formulation, its execution and process excellence will then follow.


Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock–two renowned movie directors and both immigrants to the U.S.–navigated their careers to be at the top of their field.

Leadership, like movie directing, sets the course and direction for where an organization should go, and then looks to integrated enterprise performance management methods to get it there.


Thomas Edison epitomizes invention, design and innovation. His “ideas” factory is legendary. Performance improvement accelerates with creativity and discovery.

Quest for Discovery and Continuous Learning

Although Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize winner in physics for his research in quantum electrodynamics, he is not a household name.

Some will recall his role in the investigation of the tragic Challenger space shuttle explosion. In testimony before Congress, he dropped “o-rings” into a cold glass of water to demonstrate their inelasticity that proved fatal to the craft. Feynman was extraordinarily smart.

Brilliance is not essential for success with enterprise performance management, but the quest for discovery and continuous learning is essential. Continuously applying business analytics for postulating theories and hypothesis, testing them and acting on insights are crucial for success.


Gene Kelly's unique traits: strength and discipline with grace. Kelly was noted for endless rehearsals of a dance routine until its execution was flawless. Quality matters with enterprise performance management.


Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn – Whether it was comedy or drama, these three charismatic cinema stars were exceptionally versatile.

Agility to quickly adjust and react is critical for enterprise performance management. Very little is stable today with external factors causing volatility and the need for rapid changes.

Challenging Accepted Beliefs

Edward R. Murrow, an articulate journalist and radio and television broadcaster, set the mark high in revealing false beliefs with his public grilling of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy for accusing and harassing innocent people as alleged Communist Party members. Challenging accepted beliefs is vital to improve organizational performance.

Using Predictive Analytics

“Carnac the Magnificent” (Johnny Carson): One of the funniest character skits of this late-night television host and comedian was his elaborately costumed psychic.

Predictive analytics is arguably the most distinctive aspect to enterprise performance management. It shifts management from being reactive to proactive–adjusting for changes in anticipation of when changes are needed. The result is less uncertainty and fewer surprises.

Execution of Strategy

Red Grange, Gale Sayers and Walter Payton – I grew up in Chicago, where these three remarkable athletes played running back for the NFL’s Chicago Bears football team. These three NFL Hall of Fame athletes could execute – touchdown!

Sounds simple, but enterprise performance management requires artful execution of strategy and core processes in addition to planning and risk management.

There are dozens of others whom I could have cited, but an exhaustive list is not the point. My intent is to demonstrate through examples that strong character traits in enterprise performance management advocates are central to advancing the adoption and integration of EPM’s portfolio of methods.

Using the skills of talented and motivated staff, management in many organizations will realize the full vision of enterprise performance management and propel their organizations to new levels of effectiveness.