5150 Business Strategy

Life in the Corporate Fast Lane and Still Remaining Intelligent

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Quack Quack

Blah, blah, blah, quack, quack……. It never ceases to amaze me at what passes for sage business advice. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry now believes they have the infinite wisdom of the universe. Quite frankly, past experience is not sufficient prerequisite for dispensing advice to the masses.

I love when the consultants main claim to credibility is that they are associated with other supposedly knowledgeable consultants – the more the merrier it seems. One goofball lending name recognition to another goofball – it is a pyramid scheme. Quack, Quack.

Take the ex-CEO of a large architecture firm – he moves to a consulting firm where he is embraced as a management guru. Does anybody ever check these guys background to see how they got to where they are. Most likely they were shown the door when their ego grew too big for the office they occupied. Quack, Quack.

It is like a cult of personality, where what you actually have done is not relevant. It is what everyone thinks you have done and, especially, what the other so called management gurus think you have done. It is circle jerk city as they perpetuate their own little cults to keep everyone hanging on every word. Quack, Quack.

The pearls of wisdom that get dispensed are priceless, meaning I wouldn’t pay a dime for them:

  • Cash is king – I need a consultant to tell me this!! Quack, Quack
  • How small firms can survive… Quack, Quack
  • Strategic Planning imperatives Quack, Quack
  • Characteristics of great leaders Quack, Quack
  • My humble beginnings led to great things Quack, Quack
  • Reduce your expense, Increase revenue to make profit.. Quack, Quack
  • How to develop your staff to achieve greatness. Quack, Quack

Of course, the most important credential you must possess to be a world class consultant is to show your altruistic side by volunteering for the charity of your choice. It shows your humble side and proves that your head is not up your ass all the time. Time for me to adopt an orphan child from Biafra, volunteer to take inner city kids to a ballgame, and donate to the charity of my choice. Quack, Quack.

I was told once that this large architecture firm had such a good network that speaking ill of them was frowned upon. This from a headhunter that, no doubt, was beholden to the firm for some portion of their livelihood. The undisputed message was “don’t speak poorly of them as there would be consequences”. Great advice if you wanted to perpetuate the cult… I suspect that I am not on their Christmas card list. Quack, Quack.

I live in the real world, not the world that was created by pseudo intellectuals that believe they are owners of the indisputable truth. Quack, Quack.

A recent industry rag highlights the “comeback” of a Concord California firm with full page photo of the outsider “chick”, their terminology not mine, that is spearheading the rebound. Left unsaid, but alluded to if you read the article closely, is how the firm fell onto hard times. Could it be that, as the twenty year Human Resources manager said somewhat cryptically, they had too many people in mangement who became accustomed to being in their comfort zone? Where was the outside Board member that was quoted in the article or the ex-Chairman of the Board when things were hum drumming along? Of course now they are quoted as if they are the second coming of Socrates speaking with great wisdom befitting their wise experienced ways. These will be the same guys sitting on some panel discussing the next great management craze as if they are experts when, in fact, the only thing they were expert at is preserving the status quo. As for the outsider chick, it is still too early to tell if the results will live up to the hype. The psychology major CFO’s quote is so cliched it is hard to take seriously – managers taking ownership of their budget, geez really. Quack, Quack.

The pattern repeats itself everywhere – management becomes entrenched and defends the status quo, performance declines to the point where action must be taken, “new” ideas are brought in to reinvigorate company, and the same entrenched management claims to have found Jesus. Quack, Quack.

Lesson learned: beware of those who claim to have found religion as they are generally the ones who perpetuated the old religion.

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Doing the Right Thing Versus Doing Things Right

A very subtle distinction which is lost on many in management and leadership roles. They become caught up in making sure that things are always done right without first seeing if they are actually doing the right thing – doing the wrong thing extremely well but to no avail.

Political correctness sometimes dictates doing the wrong thing even though just about everyone knows it is not the right thing. My mantra has always been that I will not sacrifice doing the right thing just because it is not the politically correct thing to do. Unfortunately there are many others who will turn a blind eye and do the most expedient thing in order to keep favor with upper management, especially if that management rewards those who stay in line at the expense of rocking the boat.

Companies enforcing policies without evaluating the changing environment they are operating in risk falling out of step with changing times. How many times have you heard someone say, “we do it this way because it is our policy”? There is no reexamination to see if the policy fits the current situation, it is done this way because we “want to do things right”. You could provide copious examples of why the policy no longer fits but the policy thumpers will treat you as unenlightened and admonish you for not wanting to do things “right”. Trying to get these wrong headed people to see that something they are doing may not be the right thing is akin to being a salmon trying to swim upstream. Going against the flow by doing the right thing may sometimes be very dangerous to your career.

Obviously, some things are not worth fighting over and you need to pick your battles. I have found, however, that many in management find it easier to do things right since there are no negative consequences. Making the decision to do the right thing can have career limiting implications and the lack of back bone in some managers makes it easier for them to cop the plea, “I did everything right”.

I would venture to say that many of the largest business debacles over the last decade were facilitated by managers who convinced themselves that doing things right was more important than doing the right thing.

Lesson Learned: doing the right thing is not the same as doing things right.

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