I have argued before that management scholarship doesn’t change very quickly. I have made the point that research articles that are decades old still offer a great deal of value. That was all well and good until I tried to find pre-reading in preparation for a strategic planning workshop that I would be facilitating. I came across a great article, one that was really relevant in shaping the thinking of my proposed audience, until I read it in more detail. And had to dismiss it as being too old. Understanding why that was true took some thinking.
How people experience working with you depends upon a number of factors. A big part of that is process. As I have written about extensively, process is important. It helps to coordinate, to deliver results, and to codify expectations and principles into guidelines that can be followed. Those benefits tend to be internal to an organization, however. Frustrations and unintended consequences can occur when those same processes bleed to the outside. For those who lead with process, consider this a cautionary tale.
I have a singular aversion to buzzwords. It is powerful, it is visceral and most of the time it exists on a hair trigger. There are certain words and terms that I avoid using except when absolutely necessary. Their use by others produces in me suspicion and mistrust. I have more-or-less acknowledged this reality for a long time, but I only recently took a moment to stop and ask myself why I react this way. It was an interesting reflection.
“Best practices” is a term that we love to bandy about. Even I will find myself relying on it at times, although I try very hard to avoid uttering its syllables. Best practices are frequently espoused as the essential and optimal means of attaining results. Generally, they are absolutely nothing of the sort. Nonetheless, many use the term as a proactive defense to justify their preferred way of working, or an after-the-fact rationalization the actions they have taken. This is my attempt to explain as clearly as I can why this is a dangerous and inappropriate idea.
Strategic engagement is hard at the best of times. When we have to do it remotely while working through a pandemic, it gets that much more complicated. We often think of online meeting solutions as a poor substitute for communicating in person. Used conventionally, they arguably are. So how can we rethink how we engage in strategic conversations online in a way that makes them work exceptionally well? Some initial thoughts.
Rules define how we approach virtually all aspects of life, not least of which is how we function in our organizations. There are the written rules, and the unwritten ones. Both shape our behaviour, and they interact with one another in fascinating and sometimes unpredictable ways. The larger question is how we interact with the rules around us—and whether or not it is safe, appropriate or advisable to do so. That depends a lot on the organization around us, how it functions and how we perceive our role within it.