The longer I’m on this planet, the more I think the problem with everything is someone’s failure to get the basics right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been invited to companies or to talk about projects going on here or there, only to hear some basic, fundamental principle being violated without anyone screaming or raising the red flag. First. Am I right? Do most people, most of the time, suck at one of the basics of what they’re supposed to be professionals at? And if so, why is this?
In management / design / business circles I know for certain of one reason. Flat out hubris. For an executive to say: “This project sucks because I have failed to organize this team effectively” requires a huge amount of humility. Much more humility than is required to say something like “Our innovation infrastructure needs to be redistributed to support the new rate of change”. Or some other bullshit that sounds complex, makes him seem smart, and entirely distracts people away from what might solve the problem: identifying the problem in the simplest terms possible.
We habitually hide the core problem under layers of noise and complexity because it makes us feel safer, and feel more competent than if we confessed to the truth. Even the best baseball players strike out hundreds of times a year. Yet they don’t explain it away or invent jargon for it in the way people in the professional world do for unavoidable failures of a simple nature.
Worse, once we have been doing something for 5 or 10 years we convince ourselves we must be experts. And to admit we got a basic wrong would be fatal to our reputation. But honesty is so rare among experts, to call something what it is would likely enhance someones reputation way more than hurt it, especially if they know how to go about fixing this basic problem.
Case in point #1: What percentage of people in every profession do you think flat out suck at what they do? 10%? 20%? 50%? There has to be a number. What do you think it is? I say it must be at least 25%. People whose peers would never ever hire them to do what they are paid to do.
Case in point #2: I’d say at least half of all professional managers have not earned the trust of their team. It has to be at least half. Now if you don’t have the trust of your team, no budget, no brilliant plan, no clever organizational model, is going to save you. Your team will always under perform if they do no trust their leader. End of story.
So as regards the working world: want to fix 50% of the projects out there? Forget all the fancy stuff. Convince these managers to find the guts to trust their own people, and then in reciprocation, the team will grow to trust the manager.
And on it goes. I’m convinced you can take any challenge a manager out there believes is intractable, impenetrable, something so complex and advanced they believe you’d need a PhD in 25 disciplines just to understand it, and slice it down to one or two fundamental problems that if called out, could be solved and transform the situation.
What do you think? Does everyone need a reality check at the basics of their craft? Or am I just being cranky?