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Customers In Middle Earth

Back in the last millennium I was introduced to JRR Tolkein in a literature class as a freshman in high school. The teacher wanted to give us an opportunity to learn a bit about the dynamics of change. The quest at the center of the Lord of the Rings saga was all about the transformation of Frodo as an individual and not so much about all the other stuff going on.

Fast forward a few decades and finally some decent cinema emerges with hobits, ents, wizards, and orks. It was magnificent. The whole thing came to life, but the story changed a bit. The version on the screen was about good versus evil and a messianic character with long greasy hair. The Shire, however, became real, along with Rivendale and Morder. It was fabulous.

Next, I find myself in London with time on my hands one evening and opportunities in the West End. The problem was that I couldn’t decide between Billy Elliot and Wicked. But, just when I had thought I made up my mind, there was a poster as I travelled up a particularly long escalator on the tube. It was a picture of a beautiful elf princess, looking a bit like the daughter of a 70’s rock star. The Lord of the Rings was playing at the Drury Lane – my plans were settled. – no Wicked Witch of the West.

This is where the story takes a turn. The stage version, which by the way was marvelous, is all about going through the process of change. My freshman literature teacher would have been so pleased. They got it right. There was an prevailing emphasis on what one has to give up in the process of achieving something important and worthwhile.

Naturally I immediately thought about CRM. You must all think that I am seriously nuts.

Middle Earth

So, give me some room with this. CRM is truly about taking on a quest. I don’t want to over dramatize this, but it is really true. To be successful, you have to give up certain things. You have to let go of some old stuff in order to have what is new in the CRM vision. For example, most of the time there is a certain amount of independence that may be lost with a CRM program – usually there is some new accountability or discipline involved. Much of the time you have to put in a little extra effort, and sometimes that effort is for the benefit of somebody else initially and does not return as a benefit to you until later in the cycle.

You cannot get to the CRM end point without giving up something. Just like Frodo. CRM is not about a battle of good versus evil. It is about figuring out what works well, and not doing things that don’t work well. Although that is a significant battle, however.

One thing that I have not completely figured out in the comparison between CRM and the Lord of The Rings is the fact that Frodo does not get to reap the rewards of his successful quest. He goes on to something else (something better we are expected to believe). Not sure what the message is here relative to those who lead successful CRM programs.


As a final note, I should state that it is a noble thing to attempt to portray thousands of pages of fantasy within a single production on a stage and the limitations of live performance. The critics have unfairly ravaged the production. As a result, the time is running out for seeing this extremely entertaining, mesmerizing, and ultimately true to the story line stage version of a classic piece of work. Gollum alone is worth the price of admission.

On the other hand, shortly after finally finishing the Trilogy back in the 70’s I had the opportunity to attend a poorly reviewed production of a musical about gangsters, also at the Drury Lane. Chicago came back two decades later as a block buster. If you can’t get to London before the end of July, perhaps you will have another chance to see this CRM metaphor on stage involving little people with hairy feet.

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