Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What kind of choices are you making?

There appears to be two types of managers. There are those whose key priority is to deliver outcomes right now and there are those who have a priority to build a sustainable future.

I would suspect, in both camps, there is an acknowledgment of the importance of the other priority, but when push comes to shove, some managers choose to produce, others to build for sustainability.

My guesstimate of the split is something like 90% production-focused, 10% future-focused.

I think there's another interesting breakdown. Of the production-focused managers, you can split them about down the middle in terms of their awareness of how critical sustainable practices are. Half don't see a bigger picture. Sure, they've heard of things like diversity and succession planning, but they legitimately think they're doing the best they can for the organization by focusing on the more immediate challenges. I think it's fair to say I disagree with their conclusion, but I appreciate that they're acting on their convictions.

The other half of these production-oriented managers, however, full-well know they are on a sinking ship, it's just that when pushed, they choose to deliver a product over making choices that are in a longer-term interest. You see, it may not save the company, but it keeps them "safe," today.

Whenever I experience this sort of tactic, I'm frustrated, disappointed and more than a little perturbed.

You mean you KNOW that we can't sustain what we're doing, what we've promised and what we've planned, but you're STILL going to go ahead and do it? Is your salary that good? What legitimizes that behaviour? Does "not my job" cover it? What happens when you fail your customers, your clients or your job disappears? Still not your fault?

Sorry. That's not really intended for you, directly. If you're reading this blog, I think you're either a knowledge worker that just categorized your boss or you're a boss trying to muster the courage to be part of the 10%... like me.

Reading that over, it's one big rant - here's the solution, as I see it - stare your fears in the eye. Play them out. What will really happen? Acknowledge you're not going to lose your job for speaking up. Find ways to make long-term choices and move the ship, bit by bit. You'll be surprised to find a large majority of colleagues appreciating (albeit quietly) your efforts.

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