What Can Historical Figures Teach Us About Enterprise Performance Management?



Achieving the full vision of the 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.

Here is a list of famous people who have inspired me and exemplify the traits valuable to achieving that full vision:


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.


Thomas Jefferson 

Americans typically have a favorite "founding father" of their nation. Mine is Jefferson because he believed in a society that provides fairness and justice. Enterprise performance management involves equitable treatment of allocating resources to align with the organization’s strategy to optimize results. For example, activity based costing traces costs accurately compared to traditional broadly-averaged cost allocations that gives the false impression where some products subsidize others.

Historical figures to teach us about Enterprise Performance Management

Orson Welles 

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.

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 is 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 5 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 

These 2 renowned movie directors – both immigrants to the United States – 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 

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

Richard Feynman

Although 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. Applying business analytics for postulating theories and hypothesis, testing them, and acting on insights are crucial for success.

Gene Kelly

I debated adding Fred Astaire’s name here, but I will stay only with Kelly to highlight his 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.

Edward R. Murrow

This articulate journalist and radio and television broadcaster set the high mark in revealing false beliefs with his public grilling of US Sen. Joseph McCarthy for accusing and harassing innocent people as alleged Communist Party members. Challenging accepted beliefs is vital to improve organizational performance.

“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.

Red Grange, Gale Sayers and Walter Payton 

I grew up in Chicago, where these 3 remarkable athletes played running back for the NFL’s Chicago Bears football team. These three NFL Hall of Fame athletes could execute - touchdown! 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.




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