Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Horse To Ride

Career going well? Be careful, or rather, ask yourself 'why?' I don't know why but for some reason the two consultants that wrote the book on marketing, namely Al Ries and Jack Trout 'Positioning the battle for your mind' I seem to recall writing a bunch of career advice into the end of a book about marketing. It could have been in the end of 'The 22 Immutable laws of Marketing' or whatever it was called, it's been a long time since I've read either.

But they advised an eponymous pony called 'A horse to ride' saying you needed a horse to ride. What they meant is, that your success needs to be bundled in with something that is actually going somewhere. If you can't ride a horse, you better hope you are a leech, sucking your fill from the dead and dying.

It's taken over a decade to understand just how important this advice is. You see, without trying to incriminate myself or anyone else. It is possible to observe people who are rewarded not for being good at their job, but doing what their management like them to do. Like a political candidate appealing to their voter base, does not actually need to be good at governance. Hopefully you can think of an example of that phenomena at hand, if you can't look at the track record of the American Republican party in the economic department for the past say... 4 Republican administrations.

But in an organizational setting you are probably more likely to stumble across this phenomena in a meaningful way. Because there's a business saying that goes a little something like 'what gets measured gets done.' I would say most junior managers interpret this in some tingly proactive way, rather than hearing a stern warning to be very careful about what you measure.

Unfortunately, if you are picturing the typical management type, you are probably not thinking 'philosopher' somebody who steps back, observes and theorises, questions why. You like me and most managerial literature probably envision somebody who gets things done. Somebody direct, motivated, disciplined, energetic and with good posture.

These unfortunately are not the people who say 'are these KPI's (Key Performance Indicators) the right ones?' for what does that even mean to most managers, the right ones. Most managers the KPIs are what measure their performance and therefore what needs addressing.

So let's step back all the way to the first paragraph, that very first question - is your career going well? You may be the top performer at a company that is hemorraging money - so is your career going well? Are you the captain's favorite able seamen on the Titanic? And then also, why? Are you very effective at cutting costs? That should be cause for concern. Cost cutting can increase profit in the short term but do damage to a brand that is very expensive to reverse. And yet you are being rewarded for doing expensive damage to the company reputation.

It's kind of fucked that it's impossible to know if you are incompetent or not, but it sucks even more if it is necessary to navigate life by being able to identify when the hand that feeds you is attached to somebody truly incompetent.