Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.
We are living the golden age of management, or at least in the golden age of looking to management for answers. Everything can be managed, and managed better or more completely. It doesn’t matter how poorly it is done, management is the due diligence for everything. It doesn’t matter if all the planning, Gantt charts and other approaches actually lead to worse performance. We must plan. I agree that we need to plan, and we need to be comfortable throwing those plans away. As military greats have said, planning is essential, and those plans are thrown out with the first contact with the enemy.
No battle plan survives contact with the enemy
Its been a few years since I was so deeply engaged with a programmatic planning process. This year I’m doing it on several fronts. The experience is has been jarring. Since my last engagement the entire planning activity has gotten further removed from any practical reality. The powers that be seem to be devoted to believing that the planning should be something we are held to. We seem to have to walk a tightrope between the necessary utility of planning and what we will be culpable for. In terms of the quality of research and science, the whole thing ends up being deeply damaging. Management that suits construction projects is being applied to activities it was never intended to work with. We are at once fully engaged in being held to the objectives while not taking them seriously. I am deeply concerned about how damaging this process is to everything it touches.
Last week I saw a fascinating seminar by Kenneth Stanley U. Central Florida) on “Innovation without Objectives”. He made a remarkably persuasive case that innovation is actually hurt by objectives. The planning we do is completely devoted to defining objectives. The ironic thing is that innovation can be made and objectives met, but not necessarily at the things that we try to achieve. Moreover being overly constrained to achieving the objectives actually hurt the ability to achieve that objective. This is because we focus on obvious solutions while ruling out innovative solutions that are more effective. His argument seemed to point toward the conclusion that the management we are devoting ourselves to is nearly completely counter-productive. Of course, implementing anything like this in today ‘s environment is completely unthinkable. There isn’t the necessary trust in science (or anything else for that matter) to let this happen.
The Truth! You can’t handle the truth!
—Colonel Jessup in “A Few Good Men”
We live in an age where the line between truth and lying is blurred in ways that should trouble us. The reality is that you can get yourself into a lot of trouble telling the truth. Structured lying is the new truth. Just ask Jon Gruber whose truth telling created a firestorm. He said that Americans were stupid and the legislation for the ACA (Obamacare for those of you who don’t know what ACA means) wasn’t transparent. Both things are true, and saying this is politically stupid, but completely honest. It almost perfectly demonstrates that lying is the new truth.
Almost every single bit of legislation passed by Congress is completely opaque and full of crap that Congress wants to hide. Its how everything is done whether or not the bill is democratic or republican. Americans probably aren’t “stupid” at least in the official definition of the word, Americans are willfully ignorant, lazy, uniformed, easily duped and a variety of other awful things. Telling them the truth about this is the problem. We have a generation of people that were told that they are special and everyone is a winner. Calling bullshit on this is unimaginable, and this was Gruber’s crime. He spoke truth in a city devoted to lies.
Here we get to the core of things; we can’t tell the truth about things; we can’t innovate and eliminate harmful over-management; we can’t trust anyone. The devotion to lying as a society leads directly to the lack of trust. Leadership is born out of trust therefore we have only ourselves to blame for the lack of it. Until we start to honor truthfulness again we can expect leadership to be absent from our lives.
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.
– Winston Churchill