False Choices and Over Simplifications

There’s all sorts of management nonsense I fear, here are just two phrases that make me shudder:

“It all about” [insert fad of choice]

“Why don’t we just” [insert miracle of choice]

These phrases usually herald a lazy over simplification and a lurch from one tired dogma to another, often due to the mistaken belief that a choice must be made.

Here’s the latest, it’s all about culture. Let’s just concentrate on that and everything will be lovely.  Better still, we don’t need strategy or process. That’s great because they were hierarchy’s really boring friends and if we just do culture we can declare hierarchy to be dead.

I really like the idea that culture eats strategy for breakfast and process for lunch (credit to Peter Drucker). Culture is rather complex, very difficult but great fun and it does do most of the work. Strategy and process are more precise and a little dull, but they keep the lights on. The things we eat sustain us.

Do them all, and do them all at once. It is not a choice. The good news is that a great culture enables us to have clear strategy, simple process, minimal policy, few metrics etc etc.

As for hierarchy, in a super connected world, it is less useful for managing communication, collaboration and innovation than it used to be; but it is more important than ever for ensuring accountability and protection from unintended consequences and rogues.

Rumours of its death are premature and an over simplification.


3 thoughts on “False Choices and Over Simplifications

  1. Why don’t we just focus on culture since that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, priority-wise. There you go, all my bug-bears all in one sentence.

    Culture is an odd one. I often get asked at interviews I’m giving ‘what is the culture like ?’ How do you answer that one ? Make some random statements about what you wear to work, who goes to the pub after work, how friendly people are or whether people turn up to work early and leave late ? I hate culture, largely because it is largely meaningless. Or, more precisely, because it means so many different things to different people that it doesn’t represent anything substantive. I think it gives people a ethereal focal point in much the same way that religion does and, to your point, allows people to blame the inadequacies of the workplace on something that nobody really understands.

    The corollary to all this is, of course, process and strategy which may have something a little bit more concrete onto which to hang your hat (mixed metaphors are also a bug bear of mine). Your employer / my former employer goes to town on the latter and gets confused about the former which just goes to prove that they can sometimes be as meaningless as culture.

    Perhaps it’s just the way my brain is wired but the best environments I’ve worked in involve a large dose of JFDI, shaken (not stirred) with a healthy glug of AFAPFFL. Which is a nice segway to your next blog post – workplace jargon and acronyms.

    All of which has nothing at all to do with “It’s All About”, the 1968 debut album from British Band, Spooky Tooth.

  2. Hilarious, really hilarious. Had me laughing all the way from Waterloo to Vintners. I almost missed you 🙂

    I read somewhere that the C word is the most complex in the english language. A worthy adversary. We can’t have life be dull, can we.

    Anyway, base wise, better cover them all.

    Cheers, beers week after next.


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