Showing posts with label Maister. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maister. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 14

Smoking Strategies: David Maister

Beginning straightaway with the title of David Maister’s new book, Strategy And The Fat Smoker, he shares the pointed observation that most professionals, especially managers, already know what to do for long-term success (and why to do it), but are too easily swayed by bad habits, short-term temptations, and misaligned measurements.

It’s a classic definition of the difference between intelligence and wisdom: smart enough to know, but not wise enough to do.

We already know that our business goals are best served by developing long-term relations with our clients and customers, but we’re too easily distracted by chasing any and all new business because the short-term transaction is so very, very tempting. In advertising, it translates into runaway creative without the benefit of communication purpose. For social media, it might mean link love and buzz vs. the pursuit of tangible business outcomes. In our personal lives, it might be super sized fries for lunch, every day, because packing a sack is too darn inconvenient.

We already know what we could be doing but until a crisis occurs, we’re forever stuck on the short-term treadmills that take us nowhere. Well, most of us.

You really don’t have to endure a crisis to actualize a better business strategy. As Maister, a recognized authority on the management of professional service firms and former faculty member of Harvard Business School, notes: all businesses talk about outstanding client service, teamwork, healthy work environments, and investing in the future. But so few really do, largely because their statement of objectives does not match the outcome they want to measure — increased revenue and profit margins.

We know it’s true, despite the fact that very few companies tell the truth, plainly stating that they are most interested in chasing cash and, nowadays, Web traffic. And, most that don’t talk about it are usually delusional or just plain liars. No wonder there is a disconnect between businesses and their customers.

Where Maister will likely strike a chord with some is in pointing out that applied wisdom leads to sustainable success. He presents a case for how individuals, managers, and organizations can put what they know how to do into action. However, we can only hope that someone inside every fat company can use the various tools, techniques, and thought processes to convince the executive team that a diet is warranted.

While some will find the shifts between individual and organizational strategy, as well as some personal experience tossed in, a bit jarring at times (along with frequent references to his other books), it’s not enough to detract from the value that can be gained. Maister expertly paints an accurate, if not frightening, picture of business as usual today.

“It is not uncommon for me to be told even by the most senor people that their firm’s impressive financial results have been accomplished by a management team which has consistently created an environment of fear and insecurity,” writes Maister. “The simplest explanation for the prevalence of this ‘abusive behavior’ is the simple fact that, in the right situation, it works!”

However, he distinguishes that such short-term work-under-fire tactics are exactly that — tactics that will eventually lose their effectiveness and eventually elicit resentment. In contrast, proactive, passionate, and positive management teams energize and excite people about what they do, which in turn becomes tangible in the way the workforce interacts with clients. Long term, applied wisdom will lead to better financial results.

He’s right. As I’ve often advised agency owners, especially those who have an account executive background, negative reinforcement can teach mice to press a bar for cheese, but it never did anything for creativity. And even with mice, too much negative reinforcement will eventually immobilize them.

My net assessment of Strategy And The Fat Smoker is that it provides some much needed advice for the increasingly fast-paced world of random transactions, especially those that occur online. Business, especially communication, is poised for a shift toward relationships that mean something, whether that means people to people or product to consumer.

Strategy And The Fat Smoker is an important first step for managers and leaders to look in the mirror and take action before the crisis. And based on the Watson Wyatt study highlighted in October, I suspect Maister’s book will be on the shelf none too soon.

In the interim, I highly recommend his blog, one of the few I frequently read without ever becoming irritated by the content. But then again, as a strategist in principle if not always practice, I prefer it over the noise that sometimes overshadows good work elsewhere.

It’s good enough that I’ll refer to and reference his book often. It's just another observation: with social media, almost no review is limited to a single post, but instead becomes infused in the principles of the writer. With Maister's principles so close to my own, it's easy.


Friday, June 22

Collecting Unconscious: Godin & Maister

Right now, I’m on a plane headed toward Reno to attend a state commission meeting in Incline Village. So I wrote this last night and asked my partner to post it this morning (rather than double up on Thursday and be dead on Friday).

The Internet makes it possible: you can post a piece of the past in the present and nobody knows it, unless you tell them. I found it fitting to mention because this is an odd little post about the collective unconscious, which was Carl Jung’s theory that we can all pull something down from “a reservoir of the experience of our species.”

It happens in my field every now and again. Someone comes up with an advertising campaign at virtually the same time someone else does, leaving some of them to wonder who came up with the idea first. Maybe no one did. It happens on blogs as well. Sometimes two authors write about virtually the same thing even though the inspiration is unrelated. It happened with David Maister and Seth Godin this week.

Maister posted about Passion, People and Principles, which is not only the title of his blog, but also three ingredients that make up a recipe for success.

Passion alone, he rightfully points out, can be dangerous. You’ll seduce a lot of people to your side, but you’ll end up fooling or betraying them. If you have principles and understand people, you risk being righteous but ineffective. You need all three in everything, which is so right, almost no one could add anything to the proposed discussion.

The day before, Godin posted a similar point, talking about drive, which is another way of saying passion.

He’s right too. Most successful organizations are driven by something, for a while anyway (not all drives are sustainable, largely because they neglect the other two ingredients). He then runs down a list of drives associated with some companies (eg. paycheck driven, marketing driven, fashion driven, etc.).

Market driven, which he says most people claim to be but really aren’t, is about creating what the market wants. It seems to me that of all the drives that he lists, market driven is most likely to carry the passion, people, and principles equation. Maybe that’s why it is first on the list.

I always understood, but never really cared for Jung. Still, he laid some important groundwork for other psychologists and theorists, especially in terms of identifying behavioral patterns, dream interpretation, and, yep, the collective unconscious.

Hmmm … I wonder how many times Jung’s name came up in the news during the last month and if that’s why I reached up and pulled down collective unconscious after seeing a coincidental link between two blogs. It’s not the first time; and likely won’t be the last.

Regardless, there is a collective truth to what Maister and Godin offered up. And me, well, I’m content to make my way as a beneficial presence. Maybe you can figure out where that might fit within two contexts. I think it fits quite nicely.


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