Saturday, January 30, 2010

Success - What Really Counts

I read this piece in Assistant Village Idiot (great title, don't you think?), and decided to excerpt it:

Through the years a couple of things have struck me. That not only do academics get angry that they aren’t running things, this includes a lot of the Bell Labs guys, but that a lot of the problem lies in definitions. As a recovering operations research junkie, one of the most important lessons I ever learned was problem definition. In many ways, it has been critical to my success. How to correctly define the problem, in most cases when it presents itself as something else, is key to a successful outcome.

In any event, what I have noticed is that they lack a couple of key concepts- the first is that simple understanding of a concept does not mean that you can do it. While this is clear and obvious in the realm of sports and entertainment, it is not obvious in business. And that leads me to the other point. Really successful business executives are rarely, if ever, one trick ponies. They must not only be successful in whatever their entry level occupation is, otherwise they could never be promoted, but eventually, they must shed whatever self styled profession they had and embrace ‘business”. In many cases, the person we promoted was not the “best” in their group, but probably in the top 5. What they had was an ability to not only learn a new skill, but to fully embrace it.
I've seen this in many fields, but it comes out mostly when the organization is under stress.  True leadership involves doing what you need to do, regardless of whether it's what you know best.  I urge everyone to read the whole thing.

I especially like a point he makes towards the end of it:

My experience tells me that under most circumstances, and there are some important exceptions, that most of the time when people go in for consensus its because they don’t want to accept responsibility.

A corollary is that there are no wrong answers, all points of view are equally valid. Ergo, consensus is a reflection of the rule, the greatest good for the greatest number.

I go in for the “’1 riot, 1 ranger” rule, and if you need a committee to come to a consensus, get rid of all of them. This is fundamentally different from the “we agreed upon the rules, and the rules were followed” idea- and many times they are confused.


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