What You Need To Hear, Not What You Want To Hear


The usual disclaimer covers this blog. Dilbert® Life series are humorous post on corporate culture from hell and dysfunctional organizations running wild. This can be quite shocking and sobering to those who take themselves to serious. So these blog posts need to be read with a healthy dose of humor and be put into perspective. If you can’t do that, leave now. If it hits home too hard, you have other problems. It could be that you don’t like what you see in this mirror. Or perhaps …

You’re so vain, you probably think this blog is about you
You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this blog is about you
Don’t you? Don’t you?

Many thanks to Carly Simon’s “You’re so vain” Smile

Shopaholic Organizations

There is a shocking addiction to trying to buy ones way out of problems. If the service desk process sucks then you buy a CRM package. If this doesn’t do what you hoped out of the box, have it customized. You don’t have 100% IT automation? You need to buy a CMDB! Need to track changes? Go ITIL & do ITLM/ITSM all over the board. Projects don’t respect their boundaries? Hire some PRINCE expertise. Can’t keep up with all the project & resource management? Buy a ERP and integrate it with the project management software you’ve been abusing. You have no clue what to do next? Hire management consultants! We have one for every flavor of management. Your employees suck? Hire consultants. Slow applications? Buy flash only storage and 40Gbps switches. Your employees are disengaged? Get a coach, buy a team building experience and a 5$ pizza discount coupon as an “atta boy”. Maybe you could even gamify the company to success? And if you feel all alone and misunderstood you can join all the peer groups & professional organizations you can find to play that same broken record to each other over and over again whilst hoping you catch a break to a better gig.

Whatever the problem you’re facing, there is a product to buy and help to be hired. Like a true addict you keep using more of the same in the hope it will work. Nice twist on what Einstein called the definition of insanity. Yet why do so many people think it will help, all evidence to the contrary?

The obsessive and compulsive need to buy stuff to fix or even solve problems, needs, lack of skills, knowledge and insights is staggering. Sure the world is full of people and companies that will gladly take your money. Why? Well that’s their business model. The only aim is to separate you from your money. They’ll tell you they understand you, that they’ve helped hundreds of people and businesses like you. So they’ll sell you whatever it is they sell and they couldn’t care less if you’re still around next year. Until perhaps the moment in 18 months they know they can sucker you again. The only line of defense you have against that is your own good judgment. It’s not that all of them their products or services have no value at all. The better vendors will even walk away from an engagement when it not mutually beneficial. But the core of the problem is that you are having issues and that’s your inability to deal with problems that cannot be solved by buying something. It’s very much like a shopaholic.

It’s a business model for someone

The idea that there is a an easy fix to solve the issues your facing and make sure you can shine as a successful leader instead of being stuck in your current mess is very temping one. There is always someone who understands this. Who’s ready to step up and deliver. Which would be great if it was not for a few simple rules:

  • A fool and his money are easily separated. And if not, as long as the money is good enough they’ll put in more effort.
  • Your problems are internal, they are caused by you and need to be fixed by you. Any addiction to whatever (products, services, consulting, coaching) are actually keeping you away from the solution.

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  • You as a manager, perhaps even a leader, will have to step up. Be all you can be and if that is not enough step aside. Do the latter yourself before it’s done to you, it’s less messy that way.

Listen, when the money is gone, all that is left are your internal resources, if you’re lucky. Acting as if they don’t matter means they won’t be very engaged. All budgets are limited, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be a scrooge. It means you need to create and build a capable organization even when budgets are plentiful that can stand on its own feet. One that is able to analyze and decide independently what it needs to do and act on that. Spend your money there. Otherwise as soon as you run out, you lose all your capabilities to act. It’s like a ship without power, on top of not even not having a rudder. You’re a drift, floating between the sharks that bled you dry.

Also, if all your organization knows what to do is hire & buy everything from others it can easily replace it with a cheaper one that’s optimized that model needing 40% to 50% less employees & managers. Pure substitution play. Game over. Economics 101.

You need to get a clue, make it happen, you and your team, no one else.  But it has to start with you. If you need coaches, consultants, products just to get started you’re not going to make it.

Ouch, that hurt!

Deep down you know the painful truth. While it would indeed be great if you’d be able to hire a coach, consultant or buy service, product that can take away your pains it doesn’t work that way. You cannot purchase those magical bottles of pixie dust or unicorn tears that can put the struggles and headaches behind you allowing you to solely focus on enjoying a successful business and be forever bliss.

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I could tell you that you’re in luck as I have a nice stash of pixie dust bottles I can use in a pinch and for a price. But that’s not it. It’s experience, knowledge, having to work and live with solutions, see the good, the bad and the ugly of both marketing, “marchitecture” in combination with grand and hopefully realistic visions of analysis & architects what’s need. The only thing this has in common with pixie dust is that is doesn’t come cheap or easy neither, but it does work Winking smile

Too many times solutions are nothing but rehashed marketing & sales pitches that succeed due to a lack of skill on both sides. All kinds of schemes are used to justify them. They don’t achieve much at all. These are often self-serving “quick fixes” to something that is as structural & often over-hyped, over complicated problem serving some people agendas.

So you spend your money and for a little while you experience the illusion that you’ve solved something. But like any addict, you, the shopaholic, will return hard and fast to reality. Poorer and sadly none the wiser. You coast from purchase to purchase never breaking this destructive pattern. You like to fool yourself into believing that you’re investing instead of spending money because you see so many successful companies buy the same products or services. It’s kind of painful and sad to watch. Some of you will blame the market, incompetent employees or dishonest vendors, lack of commitment, disobedience. While all these factors do exist and play their role it’s not the real cause of your woes. The environment you operate in is no different for you or competitors. Sure there might be a hobby business around, run by the son of a super-rich business tycoon but that’s a minority. No, the playing field is the same, so could it, however painful that thought, be you, that’s not made of the right stuff?

What if despite all your best efforts and even some pixie dust you still have issues that are killing your performance?  You can suck it up and BS your way out. Say that what you did is the best in the world and nothing more can be done. Hire consultants to audit whatever it is you want to audit (or whoever you want to put in their place if you’re really political), blame you predecessor, the lack of (upper) management vision or the current sun spots cycle. You can also really dive in and pint point where the issues are. But that’s hard, very hard. A lot harder than buying a vile of unicorn tears which seems the missing ingredient in any unrealistic project, overly ambitious architecture or design. It’s horribly difficult to obtain because it is scarce beyond imagination.

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I’ll make you a deal. While I possess some flasks, they are the most expensive substance ever to come by. So if you require the tears of a unicorn, you’re going to need truck loads with money of large denomination kind.

But there are no unicorn tears. YOU will need to fix your problems. Forget about buying products, that’s in essence automation and optimization. If you do that to a problem you only make it bigger and worse faster. Forget about coaches and consultants, they’ll only enable you to move faster and more targeted if you know the goal, that is. They will not solve your problems. That’s your job.

Don’t try to improve things with tools and services until you really know what’s wrong. Look very deep, hard and honest at your company, your managerial results and your actions. If you only find you do things to save your own behind, cover your back and hopefully move ahead you’re not fit to lead anything at all and you’re a much a strategist as my hamster. But in defense of my hamster: he lacks any ambition.  As a leader / manager you should care a bit more. Action is needed, from you. Lip service is useless. Talk is cheap. Fear kills. Deflecting decisions and responsibility makes you lose all credibility. If you care, act like it. If you don’t care no one else will for sure. If you can’t be bothered to do the hard work, no one will. You can’t lead from behind.

So what needs to be done?

Stop what you’re doing right now. Observe, orient, decide, and act (OODA) and see the progress of intelligent decisions and watch how money invested differs in results so much from money spent. There is no substitute. You don’t need tools, coaches, taskforces, committees and services. Those are only for amplification, they are force multipliers and that’s great as long as you don’t apply them to your problems. Hard as it may sound, its (free) advise that you won’t get from a sales person. You cannot avoid your responsibilities.

The eyes of the world are upon you

You brought this on yourself. You stepped on the plate as a leader. So yes, your employees are watching and they don’t miss much what affects them. I know employees can act very entitled and be a major pain in the proverbial behinds, but this discussion isn’t about that. Do you want to know why they doubt you, don’t follow you, ignore or possibly even oppose you? Because you show no leadership and do not portray any sign of competence or insight. For the good of the company and themselves they do what they need to, with or without you. No one goes over the top anymore at the blow of the whistle. So don’t pull rank, instead try to become credible.

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