Years ago, Fred was hired to perform a process audit at a large printing company because they were having problems getting jobs through the shop. He interviewed involved and impacted employees and observed the process live, later presenting his findings and suggestions for a path forward. Those ideas included closing black holes where data disappeared, keeping people accountable, and working more closely with a key employee who Fred had come to realize was a critical but deeply flawed cog in their wheel. The CFO threw the presentation on the table and said, “So basically, we’re going to pay you to tell us something we already knew?”
And Fred replied, “Basically, yes.”
They already knew what was wrong. They probably even knew what they needed to do to fix it. But they were living in the Land of Wishful Thinking, looking for someone from the outside to come in and make it all right; searching for a single, brilliant idea that would make all of the bad stuff magically go away. An easy fix, a perfect new piece of software or an amazing potential hire or a fresh piece of machinery, when really, all they needed to do was roll up their sleeves and work hard at tasks that weren’t fun, but were necessary.
I once had a gig with a company that had hired a marketing manager at a salary of $90,000 the year before. The GM wasn’t sure she was working out, although she was nice person and he liked her a lot. In an introductory meeting, she gave me a densely-packed spread sheet of all the things she’d been working on. Some were very good ideas. In fact, it looked like a roadmap to the Land of Great Ideas. Later I went over the sheet with the General Manager.
“Some of these are terrific,” I said. “How many have been implemented?”
He looked uncomfortable. “Well, uh, none.”
I looked back at the sheet and nodded. “Hm. Okay. If you gave me a quiet room with a high-speed internet connection, I could probably produce this in a week. So you have to ask yourself, is this sheet of paper worth $90,000? Because right now, that’s all you’ve got to show for her efforts.”
Unable to support a denial of that, he did what he knew he had to do, leaving the Land of Wishful Thinking behind and taking necessary action.
The Land of Wishful Thinking borders on the Land of Great Ideas, but at least you can put energy behind ideas and sometimes bring them to happy fruition. But passive, wishful thinking is unlikely to get you anywhere fast.
Cheers, from the bland but effective Land of Pragmatic Process!
October 1, 2020