Are You Playing Enterprise Pinball or Contract Bridge?

I get to observe and work with a lot of programmes designed to promote an enterprise culture.  Broadly speaking they fall into two types – the pinball machine and contract bridge table.

In Enterprise Pinball there is a glittering array of products and services, buzzers and bells, many of which come with a bouncy castle, a free lunch and the possibility of cheap finance.  Clients are recruited and fired into the pinball machine and aimed at the most appropriate target – pre-pre start, pre-start, start-up etc.  Each buzzer and bell, every service provider is implored to play their part in a seamless system of support for clients – to refer them on to other service providers who can help – until eventually they hit the jackpot – the star prize.  Occasionally the ball might get held in a pocket for a while, racking up points, but all too soon it is pinged back out into the vagaries of the game. 

Sometimes there is no-one playing enterprise pinball.  The flippers are un-manned and stand impassively by as the shiny balls that have missed targets, or have been referred in the wrong direction lose their momentum and sink down the table into the gutter.  Over time some of the bright lights go out, the rubber bands lose their ping and the whole setup becomes a little under par.  Sometimes there aren’t even many balls in play.  Or if there is a player they don’t see the potential of the flippers.  They think in terms of just needing to commission another buzzer or bell.  Another workshop, marketing campaign or a change of provider might just make the difference.  Perhaps it will – one day.  Or maybe we just need a clever piece of CRM software that will help us to recognise which buzzers and bells are not helping to keep balls in play.

The enterpise pinball machine needs skillful players.  Players who can watch every ball, understand their dynamics and goals, and when they lose momentum and drop down the table are able to intercept them and with an almost magical sense of timing, urgency and power flip them cleverly back into play.  Players who really understand the clients and are able to help them to manage their own game of enterprise pinball.

Other projects look a bit more like a game of contract bridge.  Coach and client form a contract for what they want to achieve, and both parties agree to play by the rules.  They build trust and understanding, establishing a relationship that provdes the basis for real achievement and change.  The players are committed to work together until the game is over.  And usually the enterprise game is run over months and years. 

Perhaps the very best enterprise services have both the impressive pinball table of products and services and the contract bridge team working with every client to help them navigate the available support infrastructure.


  1. My enterprise IS contract bridge!

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