Enlightened Conflict

the myth of simplification

July 19th, 2017

simple i like

 

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

 

 

“What a simple black and white world you must live in.” – unknown

 

 

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Communication.

 

Effective communication has been, and always will be, complex and complicated … and a good thing for society. Effective communication inevitably feeds into the minds and enlightenment of the listeners. If you dumb down communication inevitably you dumb down the listeners.

 

Old white men hollowed out communication. I imagine as they hollowed out everything else they found it inherently more productive to gain their objectives by hollowing out communication. Everything became soundbites, powerpoint bullet points and ‘elevator speeches.’ Effectively communicating complexity took on less importance than puncturing the mind with a quick sharp stab <and then walking away>. Old white men mastered the art of emptying communication to a point where businesses end up walking on the slippery surface of irrelevance <cloaked in a beautiful robe called “what is important for you to know.”>

 

Bruce McTague

————————-

 

 

Well.

 

I may as well fulfill my contrarian obligations immediately – nothing is it is complicated complex not simple Life worldsimple.

 

Nothing.

 

Look.

 

I may be wrong but I think the world would be a shitload ‘righter’ if we just assumed nothing was simple and started acting that way.

The whole idea of simple and simplicity has … well … fucked us up royally. It has almost become an obsession toward which everyone is consumed by until we are either frozen into inaction <this isn’t simple enough> or we hold our “simplicity prize” up high proudly … only to find in our holy quest we discarded some essential items which would have actually helped this ‘simple idea’ live.

 

We all want to simplify our lives <or at least we talk about it a lot>, simplicity in thinking, simplicity in ideas and simplicity in work … and yet, as a generalization, we all seem to seek every way possible to complicate our lives.

 

We see simplicity as a way to solve problems and, whew, we are a certainly a ‘people’ of problem solvers <but also problem creators as a corollary>.

And, yet, “it seems simple …” may be the biggest problem of all and may be one of the most misused and misguided statements and thoughts in today’s world.

 

 

A good friend of mine, an experienced communications professional, always says “if you are explaining you are losing” as an argument for simplicity. The challenge is that it … well … isn’t an argument for simplicity. It is actually an argument for clearly articulating what you want, and need, to articulate.

In fact … as I will point out later in this rant piece … being too simple actually creates more confusion, therefore, simplicity could actually be creating the explaining.

oh my god cover mouth silence do not speak

 

 

<oh my>

 

 

And that is where the myth of simplification dies. It dies in truth and reality.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of two opposing things – security/reliability, which anchors the sense of safety thereby justifying the common sense aspect of simplicity, & passion/risk/newness, which anchors the sense of movement thereby justifying the smartness aspect of simplicity.

Simplicity reality, more often than not, is an amalgamation of multiple fragments crating a mosaic which is pleasing to the eye <and relatively easy to grasp>.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of some opposing thoughts in that, typically, if you have one… you can’t have the other.

 

Contrary to simplicity narratives the complexity actually brings in the pragmatism of a simplistic reality <and I would argue effectiveness.>.

 

All this means is that simplicity is rarely simple and trying to capture it in a meaningful single word or image is … well … not only silly but sells the depth & breadth of a decision or situation or idea or thought … or reality itself … short.

 

Reality is complex.

Life is complex.

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity.

 

Simple is hard.

 

It is hard because sometimes, okay, most times simplicity is arrived at by distilling complex solutions/ideas down to its most efficient form.

 

business simplicity complex woekI would note that from my own business experience I would say that many times simplicity ideas can only be found from checking out all of the different solutions. And after sifting through everything simplicity is more often found in a “doh” moment <not an “ah ha!” moment> in that you may be surprised by the fact simplicity is just the thing that makes the most sense at the end of the day.

 

And why is simple THAT hard?

 

Well.

 

Al Einstein said, “Make things as simple as can be—but not simpler.”

 

Geez.

 

So simple isn’t the least.

It may actually be somewhere above the least and significantly below the most <complex>.

 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek simplicity. But what it does mean is that simple or simplicity shouldn’t be defined by rules or milestones or trite “say it in 10 seconds or less” dictates or, well, any boundaries.

 

Simplicity defines itself it is not defined. Simplicity is reflective of the time, place, people, situation and solution needed.

 

Ponder that my friends.

 

What may make simplicity even more complex is, oddly enough, that part which should make it the simplest.

 

Simplicity, more often than not, is the nitty gritty stuff and not the more glamorous big vision or “big idea” stuff. It is about marrying principle and pragmatism and gradual improvement – piece by piece and part by part.

 

To me, simple and simplicity tends to be found in shit that most people would think has nothing to do with simple:

 

  • Coalesce fragments

 possibilities-plans-ideas-infinity-life-business-choices

“The whole is simpler than the sum of its parts.

Willard Gibbs

 

I think people would be much better off f they understood that while simple may be represented in ‘one thing’ it is actually representative of many things.

The best of the best ‘simplicity finders’ are the ones who are the best at coalescing fragments. Gathering up disparate pieces of information and figuring out how to make them whole in a way that

 

 

  • Box in complexity

 

Let me begin by paraphrasing a quote about how Sylvia Plath wrote…

 

“Whether Plath wrote about nature, or about the social restrictions on individuals, she stripped away the polite veneer. She let her writing express elemental forces and primeval fears. In doing so, she laid bare the contradictions that tore apart appearance and hinted at some of the tensions hovering just beneath the surface of the American way of life.”

 

Margaret Rees

—————————————

 

I used the quote because far too many people think simplicity is about stripping away things to showcase the core instead maybe they should be thinking about stripping away the veneer so that the truth can be laid bare.

Let me explain <you will not agree with this if you do not agree that simplicity is a ‘whole made up of fragments’>.

 

Simplicity, to me, is about using the complex parts to box in the whole.

 

making your point bracket triangulate business combine experienceYou either:

 

 

  • Bracket what you want to offer <simplicity resides within two opposing thoughts>.

 

 

  • Triangulate what you want to offer <simplicity resides in the middle>.

 

 

  • Box in what you want to offer <simplicity gets squeezed into middle>.

 

Now.

Some people may use what I just shared and say “simplicity is the distillation” and I would push back by suggesting “simplicity is reflective of all the parts as it shows the whole.”

Am I parsing words?

Maybe.

 

But when someone says ‘show a picture’ or ‘say it in 5 seconds or you lose them’ and be done with it … I just don’t think it is that simple. Simple stimuli are just as likely to confuse. Provide ambiguity. Generate a feeling of ‘lesser than’ <”I am missing something of value or I missed the opportunity to showcase some value”>.

 

— note: there is a lot of research supporting this thought —

 

Look.

 

Our minds are like real estate.

 

Space is limited and we can’t let every thought, idea, product, person or whatever have a place to stay.

 

That means where the rubber hits the road with regard to being simple and simplicity is that it must create some connection with whomever is touching that simplicity

 

I will end with Chopin. Chopin is one of my favorite classical composers. I seriously doubt anyone who has ever looked at any of his sheet music would suggest his music was not complex. And, yet, close your eyes and listen … it contains a simplicity that connects.

 

==================

 

“Simplicity is the final achievement.

After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

 

Frédéric Chopin

 

====================

 

All I know is that we have totally fucked up the idea of simplicity to a point where simple, or simplicity, is more a myth than reality. This myth has hollowed us out – hollowed our thinking, our communication and our culture.

 

beauty in the breakdown 2

Most of the worthwhile things in Life are not hollow … they have depth & breadth … they are … well … complex.

 

Reality is complex.

 

Life is complex.

 

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity but I would suggest that the beauty can be found in the breakdown of the complex to its simplest form.

the unexpected move

June 27th, 2017

bad idea beauty life business

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“The unexpected, always the unexpected.


If they expect you to move right, move left.


The first law of survival in this jungle that you’ll inhabit.
The unexpected move. “

 

—-

The Avengers

 

========

 

“She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.”

 

Terry Pratchett

============

 

 

Well.

 

Far too often in business we talk about making an “unexpected move” to gain an advantage as “zig when they zag.”

 

So … lets’ take a minute and talking about the whole “zigging when they zag” bullshit.

 

Oh.

Yeah.

 

On a football field zigging when they zag can be effective … but in business it is bullshit.

 

Look.

 

I am all for running with a temporary advantage when given the opportunity <and, yes, about 97.385% of advantages are temporary — I made up the 97.385% number>.

But that is not ‘zigging’.

 

I am all for hunkering down on a specific distinctness when it appears the rest of the category is bumbling around in an array of meaningless claims.

But that is not zigging.

 

I am all for leaping through a window of opportunity when the window cracks open.

But that is not zigging.

 

Suffice it to say … zigging, in general, is a stupid strategy.

 

Let me explain why.

 

Most industries once they have a fair number of competitors is more like a 7 zig zag highway unexpected businesslane superhighway where everyone is driving in the same direction within the same guard rails.

 

Not everyone will like thinking that but the truth is that most businesses have smart people who see the same information and do all the necessary research with people who are likely, and not likely, to buy whatever it is they are selling and therefore strategies are in the same realm and everyone is pretty much competing in the same arena.

 

This means a couple of things.

 

Everyone is speeding toward the same destination.

If something is obvious to you, it is most likely obvious to them.

 

What all of this means is you have to move but most moves have to be done artfully.

 

So maybe despite the fact I balk at the whole ‘zig when they zig’ and ‘unexpected’ anything in business gives me heartburn it is possible I could discuss the art of the unexpected move.

 

I call it “art” because unpredictability as normal behavior is bad. No one likes someone who is unpredictable 100% of the time and organizations <alignment, operations and ‘day to day doing’> tend to respond poorly to unpredictability.

 

unexpected changeIn my highway metaphor unpredictability most likely means either <a> a crash or <b> slowing down and you get passed or <c> you are now on a completely different road than all the other competitors speeding toward sales, & customers.

 

As for predictable?

Yikes. Boring. Lack of creativity. Bad <in a different way> … let’s just call predictable “lack of any art.”

 

In my highway metaphor this most likely means you are cruising in one of the right lanes, the slower lanes, and people are passing you all the frickin’ time.

 

This suggests making a move in your industry take more art and artfulness to navigate the path you desire or take advantage of the opportunity that may open.

 

This also suggests, in the business world, you sit up and pay attention just with a little more focus when someone pulls out the “maybe we should zig when they zag” tritism. You do so mostly because anyone who says that who is not on a football field most likely has their head up their ass <but want to say something catchy in a meeting to be noticed>.

 

I say that, again, because most time in a business industry companies are going in a direction for a reason … that is where the sales are. So ‘zigging’ when everyone else ‘zags’ more than likely means they are heading toward sales and you are not <but you can always say you zigged when they zagged>.

 

Ok.

 

Now.

 

If you want to tie ‘unexpected move’ to survival … well … that is a different story.

 

Survival does have a nasty habit of forcing some unexpected maneuvering. Ok. Maybe out of desperation the predictable in us decides that maybe being ‘unexpected’ may actually be called for.

 

I would suggest that if you find yourself in desperate times rarely is anything artful in that moment.

But I would suggest that in a desperate survival mode I can offer tow lists you should write up on some big board in some big conference room and make sure you discuss.

 

There are basically 4 basic responses to a threat <or opportunity I imagine>:

 

 

  • Fight

 

  • Flee

 

  • Deceive

 

  • Submit

 

 

Any move you choose to make will be derived from one of these four spaces.

Choose wisely.how we survive makes who we are

 

Once you have chosen <wisely> effectiveness in a survival fight basically comes down to 4 things <in the order of importance>:

 

 

  • aggression and willingness to hurt your competition

 

  • willingness to get hurt yourself

 

  • skill and knowledge

 

  • strength and power

 

 

Some may haggle with my order but the top two will dictate your success regardless of how you stack the last two.

And of the last two is would suggest most of the time knowing what to do is more important than brute strength.

Choose wisely <but always choose the first two or you will get crushed>.

 

I offer these two lists because when anyone suggests zigging when someone zags I bring these out.

Shit.

I bring these two lists out almost any time a business wants to talk about effectively competing in an industry.

 

Why?

 

Because nothing really matters if you do not figure out these two lists.

 

Why?

 

Temporary as long asGoing back to what I said earlier … advantages are temporary   and the other guys/gals you are competing against are as smart as you are.

You don’t zig just for the sake of zigging <that is wasted organizational energy> and if you do have to take an unexpected move it is most typically a response to something in the situation.

 

While we like to talk about zigging and zagging the reality comes back to the highway. You have to move forward and keep moving forward <or get run over>.

The only zigging anyone should ever talk about is either moving into another lane to pass someone or another lane to let someone pass you or change lanes to avoid a crash.

 

================

 

“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change.

Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.

 

—-

William S. Burroughs

 

==============

 

Unexpected moves just to do something unexpected is … well … stupid.

It is in the same category as change for change sake.

It is in the same category as zigging when they zag.

 

Now.

 

Unexpected moves made in the search for something incredible waiting to be known <some desired destination>? Well … yeah … that isn’t stupid.

 

===========

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

 

—-

Carl Sagan

===========

.......... zig zag mistake ................

……………. zig zag mistake …………….

Unexpected moves made to survive on the competition highway? That isn’t stupid.

 

Unexpected moves made to veer through a window of opportunity that arises? That isn’t stupid.

 

But zig when they zag? C’mon. That’s just stupid.

 

It is stupid because more likely than not it just means you will have not left the comeptition behind but rather just left the competition.

come to an entirely erroneous conclusion my dear Watson

June 9th, 2017

conclusion header facts truth

================

 

“I had,” he said, “come to an entirely erroneous conclusion, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data.”

 

Sherlock Holmes

<The Adventure of the Speckled Band>

 

================

 

 

“When we get better understanding or the facts or evidence don’t agree with the theory we must change the theory and change course.””

 

Sherlock Holmes

 

============

 

“… when you hear hoof beats behind you don’t expect a zebra.”

 

proverb

 

===================

 

So.

 

“I believe” may be two of the most dreaded word you can hear in today’s world.

i believe hand writingThose two words may be this century’s version of throwing down a gauntlet or challenging someone to a duel.

 

“I believe” has been bastardized in today’s world to actually mean “I know” <but people have convinced themselves if they soften it with ‘I believe’ people will think they are more open to listening and true discussion>.

 

Facts matter. And they matter a shitload not only with truth but in the battle between I know and I believe.

 

The problem is that while facts are facts … two facts can coexist in the pursuit of “I know.”

 

Shit.

The truth is that … well … truth , the unequivocal kind, is most likely borne of let’s say 8 facts <I made that number up> coexisting … which when arranged into a pattern make up an unequivocal truth.

 

This means unequivocal truth … or let’s call it good solid “I know” is made up of a puzzle of facts … not just one fact or even two.facts conclusion truth think

 

The practice of Truth is actually a profession of facts.

 

Using legalese for binding of contracts … by means of facts, truths are created and beliefs come into existence. Yet, in spite of all good intentions, the meanings of individual facts are not always clear and unequivocal. They may be capable of being understood in more ways than one, they may be doubtful or uncertain, and they may lend themselves to various interpretations by different individuals.

 

Following that thought … this means, when differences in understanding are not resolvable, divides in “beliefs” occur and dysfunction, in terms of lack of progress, occurs.

 

Once again, in legal terms, this is called “ambiguity.”

 

void delicious ambiguityParadoxically enough, the word ambiguity itself has more than one interpretation.

 

The general meaning has to do with how things are said, the words that are used, by someone and how those words are understood.

 

Ambiguity occurs where the two are not in alignment. The lack of alignment actually springs back upon the facts themselves in a vicious way — the fact itself comes into doubt.

 

Sigh.

 

But facts are facts. The problem isn’t about the fact but rather most truths are more complex than one fact. Unequivocal truth is grounded in … well … 8 facts <once again, I picked 8 out of the air but you get the point>.

 

This problem gets compounded by how people elect to actually use facts.

 

Using my 8 let me tell you what I mean. The expert, the most knowledgeable, array of facts truth findingwill stack up the 8 facts from top to bottom in order of priority … but all relevant to making and truth unequivocal.

 

 

 

Then we, the non-experts, get in the game.

 

Some of us use the highest priority fact … and that is all.

 

Some grab the facts we want in the order we want and create the truth we want.

 

Some may actually use the 8 but decided to prioritize them in a different order.

 

All are using facts. Most are using them improperly or in an incomplete way. And, inevitably, 90%+ end up with an “I believe” and not an “I know” stand.

 

I know. I know. We all wish truth could be easier and, in fact, many people flippantly suggest truth is simple <or simpler than we make it out to be>.

 

Here is what I know about that. Using the thought I used upfront in this piece “… when you hear hoof beats behind you don’t expect a zebra.”

Well.

An expert, maybe a horse trainer, could hear the hoof beats and tell you with 95% confidence the breed, the weight and the type of horse coming up behind you. The dreamer will suggest it could be a unicorn. The pragmatic will narrow it down to a horse, zebra, antelope or some 4 hoofed animal.

truth facts numbers understand question

Truth is less than simple and more in need of facts than we like to admit.

 

Yes.

 

The trouble with unequivocal truth is that it usually takes ‘one more step than you think’ to get there. Unfortunately, the truth about this is most of us don’t make it there.

 

We stop short.

And I tend to believe most of us know we are stopping short. We like the facts that we have but we, at the same time, know there are most likely some more out there that could be useful. We have 3 or 4 and decide the remaining 4 or 5 are just not that necessary. I guess we bank on the fact if we stop short we have at least grabbed the top 3 or 4 most important facts in an unequivocal truth.

 

Yikes.

 

Dangerous thought.normalizing behavior light matches flame fire danger

 

It’s dangerous in believing we have the most important ones of the ones we decided is enough but possibly even more dangerous is that we confuse an unequivocal truth for a simple “I believe” thought.

 

It is dangerous because “I believes” tend to reside in the negative space. Huh? If you only snag 4 of the 8 necessary facts the debate can never be resolved as the back & forth ends up in the blank spaces around the discussion. Truth is constructed more often by what was not found than what was found <look at what I didn’t point out versus what I did point out> – that is negative space truth.

Uhm.

That is not unequivocal truth.

 

In fact … it poisons the unequivocal truths in a misdirection of specious comparisons.

 

I would suggest that more of us should pay attention to negative space.

Why?

Negative space is usually indicative that a fact is missing. 99% of negative space can be filled with a fact <if only we looked hard enough for it>.

 

All that said.

 

Truth is the axis munid … the dead center of the earth.

 

=============

 

“the person who pretends to not see the truth is committing something much worse than a mortal sin, which can only ruin one’s soul – but instead committing us all to lifetimes of pain. The truth is not just something we bring to light to amuse ourselves; the truth is the axis munid, the dead center of the earth.

facts results truth conclude

When it’s out of place nothing is right; everyone is in the wrong place; no light can penetrate.

 

Happiness evades us and we spread pain and misery wherever we go.

Each person, above all others, has an obligation to recognize the truth and stand by it.”

 

—–

Jacque Silette

 

================

 

I believe, no, I know the world would be a better place if more of us took that thought seriously. Because if we did than maybe we wouldn’t stop short of the unequivocal truth destination. Maybe we wouldn’t settle for an “I believe” thought and confuse it with a real “I know” thought. And maybe if we did there would be less discussion of alternative facts and more discussion about unequivocal truths on which we could center ourselves on.

 

“I had,” he said, “come to an entirely erroneous conclusion, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data.”

 

Geez.

 

If Sherlock Holmes says that sure as shit more of us should be saying it <and I conclusion tired of thinking ideadon’t think we are>.

 

 

Unequivocal truth exists.

 

They exist as surely as Santa Claus <yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus >.

 

We just have to want to get there and not be satisfied by stopping short and feeling good about the facts we gathered … short of the ones we need to reach unequivocal.  I don’t know that 8 facts create an unequivocal truth is the right formula but I sure as shit believe it is on the right path to getting there.

 

 

If you’re stationary, you’ll die

May 31st, 2017

 

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“Stagnation is self-abdication.”

 

Ryan Talbot

 

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stand still but moving 3

 

“The moment we stand still, we begin to decay.”

 

Erich Fromm

 

==============

 

If you’re stationary, you’ll die.”

 

—-

Gen. Mark Milley, current Army Chief of Staff

 

================

 

 

Ok.

 

I tend to believe any reasonable business person recognizes that stagnancy leads to inevitable death <although at the same time many reasonable normalizing behavior light matches flame fire dangerbusiness people also have an unhealthy relationship with tried & true systems & processes, mitigate risk taking to such an extreme level that change almost seems indiscernible and views any change as something that needs to be analyzed from every view imaginable before undertaking it>.

 

I thought about that the other day when I scanned a fantastic article on WarontheRocks discussing the army strategy of the future.

 

Within it was a phrase that caught my eye – “disciplined disobedience.”

 

It first and foremost reminded me that businesses can view stagnancy in a variety of ways in their attempt to “not change what works” while seeking “change what needs to be changed” <ll of which simply means “something within your business is not dynamic and there are scraps of stagnancy slowing you down>.

 

It secondly reminded me that back in august 2010 I wrote something called ‘discontinuity for successful company continuity’  in which I shared an organizational idea called “controlled autonomy” <others may call it a version of a self organized organization or a decentralized organization or a variety of ‘decentralized-like employee empowered’ terms> … and suggested that was the organization of the future.

 

—————————-

 

 

A continuous discontinuous organization?

Controlled autonomy.

Controlled in that there is a vision, a focus and a functional understanding of what is it we do well.

Autonomy in that outside the ‘control developers’ people can do different shit.

Controlled autonomy is certainly an organizational shift from the past.

But even IBM has looked at this concept.

A past IBM research report suggests that the best analogies for businesses in the future may no longer be the command structures of the military but the self-organizing networks found in nature: schools of fish, flocks of birds and swarms of insects.bee fly still

Well.

I don’t know about the birds & bees thing but I do understand they are suggesting some decentralization (or autonomy at the employee level).

The struggle with this is that this agility I am discussing is a process where the leadership is not omnipotent.

And further struggle continues with autonomy (and the ensuing agility) as there will be enablers and blockers within the organization therefore the leadership must factor in internal organization limitations (and possibilities) when judging the best plan of action.

What that really means is that no matter how you slice it … organizations are ‘tense anxiety-driven’ structures.

Employees typically oppose new ideas because they perceive they are unworkable (and sometimes they are if the ivory tower doesn’t have their shit together) and bad for profits (or it appears to on the ground people they aren’t making as much money).

And yet we also know that employees always have a large stake in the future success of any organization. Some hesitancy is due to fear or laziness but it can also be due to good judgment.

This is where autonomy comes into play.

It’s not just about diverse views in planning (which obviously highlights opportunities and obstacles) but also some permission of diversity in on the ground decision making.

And autonomy in an organization helps address the truth that is there is a difference between ‘intended’ strategy at the corporate level and ‘realized’ strategy on the business level, i.e., what management wishes to occur, and what is in fact carried out.

That is also the dynamic portion of businesses that permits change to meet changing markets.

Sounds awful difficult to control? (or manage) Sure it is.

But that is why a leader should be paid the big bucks.

———————-

 

 

Uhm.

 

I still believe that.

 

At the most simplistic level any business faces two basic demands — it must execute its current activities to survive today’s challenges and adapt those activities to survive tomorrow’s.

This means executing and adapting at exactly the same time.

 

This also means, within your business, there is a constant competition for outcome results beeresources, money & time in order to meet executional demands and adaptation opportunities <therein lies a significant portion of the ‘tense-anxiety’ dynamic of a dynamic organization.

 

I am not making this up.

Peters and Waterman <In Search of Excellence> argued that organizations must simultaneously be “tight” in executing and “loose” in adapting.

 

I believe they also pointed out that very few do both well.

 

I have had many discussions with many businesses trying to convince them that an organization can be very good at both executing an adapting and how to be good at both.

 

It seems that many business leaders sometimes forget that the organization can sometimes forget they can actually be an organization from an aligned ‘doing’ perspective <because we put such an emphasis n vision and strategy>.

 

What I mean is that most good businesses have naturally incorporated a sense of autonomy and over time the organizational alignment aspects fade into a subconscious background space and individual departments and groups coalesce around the autonomous aspects <it gives them a sense of pride, empowerment & self-actualization as part of the whole>.

 

Everyone should note that while this is an incredibly powerful engine in a company it can become challenging with employee turnover <because there has to be some plan to assimilate new people into a subconsciously acting organization>.

 

Look.

 

I believe, and vocally espouse, great alignment in an organization more often than not is actually “purposeful fragmentation.” This is the type of alignment which permits the parts of the organization <departments, divisions, etc.> to maintain some autonomy yet always be grounded in what is ultimately important to the organization.

 

Sure.

 

I do believe there are things you want an organization to do fairly commonly and certainly can do if you ask the organization to swing into action. And I do believe it is imperative to get these things down and established as ‘rote behavior’ in the midst of an organizational shift/transformation.

 

But organizations have a nasty habit of falling back on less-than-autonomy type leadership and thinking. This nasty habit occurs as we gain experience because our ‘rules & guidelines’ hierarchies fill up based on a larger collection of specific experiences and more feedback on what has and hasn’t worked.order chaos consistent hugh

 

Someone articulated the outcome of this as “our mental models grow into complex structures of categories, interlinked rules, and weightings. We become less likely to perceive experiences as totally new and instead try to relate them to previous ones, which we group into existing categories. As mental models become more complex over time, major rearrangements become more difficult.”

 

Basically, as an organization’s size and complexity increase its degrees of freedom & autonomy decrease. and while I just made a sweeping generalization I would point out something that Scott Page, University of Michigan, who studied why some organizations are complex and hierarchical while others are simple and flat concluded — organizations evolve in response to the problems they have to solve.

 

All of this leads me back to what the Army Chief of Staff said in the warontherocks article. Two thoughts for any business person who embraces the uncomfortable truth that stagnancy is the path to irrelevant death:

 

  • If you’re stationary, you’ll die.”

 

Consolidated bases and logistics hubs will be untenable, presenting lucrative targets for an enemy with precision firepower. He noted we must “untether

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

ourselves from this umbilical cord of logistics and supply that American forces have enjoyed for a very lengthy period of time.” Army units will have to move, set up, move, and move again — “maybe every two, three, four hours just to survive.” Fixed sites of any kind will be lethal magnets for destruction by enemies who will have a rich diet of targeting information — especially since smart phones will be even more ubiquitous. As he bluntly stated, “If you’re stationary, you’ll die.”

 

 

  • Disobey Orders — Smartly

 

He called this …  “disciplined disobedience.” I believe this idea was floated by a past Army Chief of Staff back in the 1970’s but called “selective disobedience.” This suggests that disobeying orders can be justified to achieve the larger purpose of the mission.

 

[A] subordinate needs to understand that they have the freedom and they are empowered to disobey a specific order, a specified task, in order to accomplish a purpose. Now, that takes a lot of judgment … it can’t just be willy-nilly disobedience. This has got to be disciplined disobedience to achieve the higher purpose.

 

Milley added:

“disobedience, when done, must be done with trust and integrity, and you must be morally and ethically correct.”

 

A business competitive field has always been one of chaos and unpredictability <although we have always tried to communicate it as more static in SWOT analysis and crap like that>.

 

And if you accept it is more chaotic and unpredictable it will become easier to understand why far too many organizations frequently lack reliable communications up and down the chain of command.

 

As the Army recognizes, and businesses more often should, junior leaders may have to independently make quick decisions upon which battles may be decided and which may have strategic consequences.reason why unreasonble

 

In a controlled autonomy the leaders must become more comfortable with some ambiguity and accepting the fact that employees closer to the point of action/decision will be making unsupervised decisions to achieve the organization’s, and leader’s, intent.

 

Simplistically, as the Army suggests is mission command — empowering leaders with the “why” of their task, but leaving the “how” to their imagination.

 

Well.

 

Suffice it to say … while people like me love that thought & concept most business leaders are scared shitless of it.

 

Frankly, most senior leaders <centralists by management nature> who seek to implement some autonomous aspects don’t set out to deceive anybody. In their heads they know that high degrees of involvement, participation, and autonomy are key elements in high organization performance. But in their hearts, they still crave orderliness, predictability, and control.

 

They get trapped in the wretched in-between because a central “plan” cannot dictate and bring order to a haphazard, chaotic, unpredictable, and rapidly changing business world – no matter how much we wish it would.

 

And. It gets more difficult.

 

With a continuing stress on “bottom line” or making margins as high as possible leaders fall into the financial analysis trap which encourages anything but autonomy.

Financial analysis can clearly show that consolidating and centralizing support services and functions saves money and increases efficiency <in huge PowerPoint graph slides in the conference room> therefore suggesting autonomy is less than efficient.

 

What doesn’t show up in these analysis are two things:

 

<1> consolidating & centralizing is most effective & efficient in servicing a static

imagination rules napoleon

<2> the inherent alienation, helplessness, and lack of ability to connect with real time customer & market needs or organizational purpose that centralized bureaucracy often brings

 

I could argue for controlled autonomy for years. And I could begin with the simplest thought that efficiencies may save gobs of money but the processes to do so can be cost you the intangible people energy and passion engine within the organization <and then add in at least 5 additional powerful reasons you, as a business leader, need to suck it up and embrace some ambiguity>.

 

But now I will argue for controlled autonomy by using the Army as an example and start using disciplined disobedience” every chance I get.

 

 

 

 

the science, and the lost art, of ROI

May 24th, 2017

choices-path-shopping-direction-decisions

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“… businesses want answers right away and many times high statistical reliability is not worth the cost it takes to achieve it.

 

Insights that point decision-makers to go “left” or “right” is innately good enough. Leaders are oftentimes not willing to pay for “turn left at a 30 degree angle” or “turn right at an 115 degree angle” because it may cost too much money and takes far too long to obtain those precise next steps through drawn-out methodologies.”

 

—–

Kuhn

 

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“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”

 

=

John Dewey

 

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“Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.”

 

—–

Rene Descartes

 

============

 

Well.

 

fire water contradiction ideas thinkThis is about how ROI gets abused in decision making and I am writing about that because the Trump administration issued their “national budget proposal” <which I fully acknowledge is simple a guideline of the administration’s desires> and immediately started ponying up all their “we made cuts where there was no evidence of appropriate results” justifications.

 

Some of those justifications are terrifying.

Some of their choices are terrifying.

 

As for the budget plan?  As one writer put it … “the math is terrifying.”

 

Cutting Medicaid would be devastating for all low-income Americans, but particularly for women and mothers: 45 percent of childbirths in the U.S. were funded by Medicaid in 2010, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Trump’s budget also cuts funding for after-school programs for children and support for domestic violence victims.

 

I am going to let other people tear apart the incredibly short sighted Trump budget plan <which, yes, has scraps of good ideas> and I will focus on the criteria it appears they focused on <excepting the parental leave initiative which was like placing a half-eaten M&M on top of a turd> — budget by ROI.

 

Budgeting by ROI.

 

Whew.

 

 

This provides me with another excuse to blast my generation of business leaders and how their misguided thinking has screwed up not only how business is conducted, in general, but how we think about business. Specifically about ROI … these hollow men hollowed out business of any of the ‘art’ and color which is associated with thriving businesses which contribute to society & cultural norms leaving at an empty husk of dollars & cents and black & white ROI decisions.

 

Look.

 

roi einstein

I am all for analysis and love quantitatively judging tactics and initiatives. But I also understand that <1>  numbers often do not always tell the entire story and <2> we far too often judge ROI on one specific outcome without assessing some value on some ‘ripple effect’ outcomes.

 

But, first, the numbers and ROI.

 

I wrote back in February that numbers have lost their mojo  … yeah … well … I still believe that … just in a different context.

 

In this case we are dealing with a generation of business people who have completely bastardized the use of numbers – stripping them of anything but the false veneer of what they call “simplistic stark truth.”

Now. ‘Simplistic stark truth’ sounds good … and it sounds really good in the business world.

 

And, yet, in this starkness there is found falseness. The falseness can be found in its lack of imagination, its lack of depth and its lack of seeing anything but ‘what can be measured.’

 

This stupid view of numbers wreaks havoc when viewing ROI analysis.

 

Now … back on November 13th 2016 I wrote about the Trump administration as the last stand of the old white men  <the business generation I continuously skewer> and discussed hollowness. And while I outlined a number of ‘hollow’ things which can be blamed on this generation in that piece I neglected to point one out — the hollowing of ROI.

 

————–

 

ROI.

 

ROI <return on investment> is a fabulous tool. It offers us every day unimaginative pragmatic schmucks an almost heuristic way to judge some fairly complex and complicated things in business.

 

But old white men hollowed ROI of anything intangible and along the way scraped away some of the most meaningful things associated with investment in their desire for simplistic “this led to that.” Certainly some investments have linear outcomes and results. But not all. And these hollow men in their black & white pursuit of profit, efficiency and outcomes became color blind.  Old white men started looking at people as equal to numbers & dollars and not organic organisms of less than linear productivity <in terms of Life actualization as well as business actualization>. These hollow men fell in love with numbers and began diminishing the value of humanity.

 

That is Trump in a nutshell.

 

—————-

.......... hollow men making hollow decisions ......

………. hollow men making hollow decisions ……

Well.

 

I could argue this all happened because ROI analysis permitted a shortcut for business people — a thinking & decision making shortcut.

It permitted, and encouraged, an entire generation to not have to really think but rather fallback on “that’s what the analysis said.”

 

That is plain and simple lazy fucking business … not smart solid business.

 

I will not argue that a good ROI analysis can offer a quick spontaneous glimpse of truth viable snapshot … in fact … it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who stated that the growth of intellect is spontaneous.

 

Of course, he hadn’t been bludgeoned with measurement, ROI and data driven decisions.

 

Of course, he was also on the one who stated … what is the hardest task in the world? To think. And. We are all wise. The difference between create destroy pencilpersons is not in wisdom but in art.

 

And that is where Trump and his merry band of old white men doing this whole budget thing are most aggravating.

 

It is not that they cannot envision the art of decision making but rather they purposefully abstain from the art of decision making <and focus solely on ROI>.

 

It is not that they are incapable of holding two conflicting ideas at the same time but rather they purposefully choose to ignore one idea or thought for the one most supported by the science of ROI.

 

 

It is not that they are oblivious to the qualitative nature & benefits of budgetary decision but rather they avoid the more difficult defense of the qualitative to utilize the more easy, and lazy, rationale of the quantitative.

 

I don’t blame them specifically <although it is their budget blueprint> but it is the unfortunate legacy of that entire generation to do those things.

 

All that said.

 

While ROI seems a straightforward way to analyze … ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly tricky … but when done well it can inform some great insightful decisions and ideas.

 

ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly painful … like having the devil screaming at you type painful … and even when done well tends to dull <not sharpen> the good ideas.

 

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The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

 

—-

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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But ROI, measurement … practical rewards & output … that is what we ‘do’ these days.

This seem o be our “how we conduct business handbook” these days.

philosophical-discovering-gravity

We seem to have forgotten the value of unsought discovery and the value of … well … the benefit of the benefit <I spent money which created ‘x’ outcome … which enabled this other ‘x’ outcome>.

 

We seem to have culturally decided consciously to … “inevitably we will show a failure of imagination.”

 

What do I mean ? Let me use a quote from Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:

 

 

 

“…in the hands of politicians grand designs achieve nothing but new forms of the old misery…”

 

 

 

In our failure of imagination in our analysis of existing programs and initiatives we come up with grand designs begetting new forms of old misery. But what makes today and this budget worse? These are supposed to be fucking business people and not politicians in place making these ‘grand designs’ <isn’t that what some people voted for with Trump?>.

 

I admit.

 

I am wary of how ‘we the people’ will move forward with regard to budgeting tough-choices-shopping-decisions-lifeand programs and policies and deciding what we should do to better America..

 

I am wary because I see little moving forward, no ‘trying to do what it takes to get there’ other than bludgeoning people with simplistic harsh solutions and no imagination to overcome the cries of ‘why waste money on something like this!”

 

I am wary because I see men of a generation who bastardized ROI analysis applying their own bastardized version of ROI thinking to people’s lives <under the guise of “applying it to people’s money/taxes” — no, they are not the same>.

 

I am a business guy.

 

I cannot envision running a business, or a government, without solid measurement, ROI & budgeting rigor.

 

But I also know from running a business with hundreds of employees that the greatness of an organization does not reside solely in some number … or some ROI analysis.

 

==========

 

“The true greatness of a nation is not measured by the vastness of its territory, or by the multitude of its people, or by the profusion of its exports and imports; but by the extent to which it has contributed to the life and thought and progress of the world.

 

===============

 

I tend to believe most of us every day schmucks recognize that ROI is part of doing business and insuring our hard earned money/taxes is used effectively.

But I also believe that most of us every day schmucks also realize that some things just cannot be measured solely by numbers.

 

 

I worry that this Trump administration is reflective of the lost art of ROI family choices tough decisions aheadanalysis and the value of discovery

 

In their love of money as ‘winning’ they have lost sight of the value of seeking what is beyond the horizon. They have devalued imagination to such a point that they most likely define imagination as measurable in an ROI analysis. In other words they take ideas and thoughts, even ones with no history, and embrace them not by saying “what if” and “what could be” but rather by grinding it through some veg-o-matic ROI machine to assess its true value.

 

And that, my friends, is how they came up with their “blueprint for a national budget.”

 

And that, my friends, is how they plan on running this country and making their decisions.

 

And that, my friends, is not how America does business … because it shows a failure of imagination and it is imagination, not ROI analysis, which drives real change and progress.

 

—————–

 

“Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization.

Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities.

 

So I believe that dreams–daydreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing–are likely to lead to the betterment of the world.

 

The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to invent, and therefore to foster, civilization.”

=

 

Baum

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Enlightened Conflict