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.
I’ve made the argument that the boxes and lines of models don’t matter as much as the content that occupies those boxes. I’ll go one step further. What really matters is the messiness that underlies that content. Models attempt to simplify and create meaning. The content within the model is just the aggregate representation of the situation in an organization at any given moment in time. Change the context and circumstances, and you will likely wind up with a very different representation that leads to very different interpretations and conclusions. Simplicity is a distraction. If you want to really know what is going on, then you need to embrace the messiness.
It depends. It always depends. Figuring out how to approach situations, address challenges or secure decisions is some of the most difficult work that we do. We might know the outcome we want, but the challenge is successfully navigating the culture of the organization to secure the support that we need. Culture matters. Success in navigating culture means understanding how it works and figuring out how to respond. That’s easy to say, but harder to do.
We like rules. Rules make life easier. Knowing that there is a right and wrong answer means that we can figure out how to be successful under all circumstances. The only problem is that life doesn’t actually work that way, particularly when engaging in politics and managing in the face of complexity and uncertainty. That’s not to say that there aren’t strategies that can help, but those strategies inherently require adaptation, a willingness to be flexible, and acceptance that the only right answer in any given situation is, “It depends.”
Process is important. It provides useful and relevant guidance on how to get things done. And yet process can also be a crutch, particularly when we presume the real world works exactly as the process prescribes. For process to be useful, then, we need to rethink how we relate to process.
Culture is important. And context is everything. And yet, when we make decisions, we very often ignore the things that we should pay attention to the most. Worse, our tendency to do that is hard wired. That doesn’t mean it has to stay that way, though.