Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Meeting of Philosophers

Maria, a department director, supervises Jake, who heads one of her divisions. She finds various problems with the performance of Jake's area and is frustrated that no improvement has been made.

She tries to find precisely how Jake has been lacking but that search has been difficult. She thinks that Jake may playing a game of escape and evade.

Her search is a waste of time. Jake's division is performing quite well. The problem is Jake and Maria have very different views of what the division should be doing. Each has assumed that the other has the same view. That assumption - combined with a sense that discussing something as basic as the general direction is embarrassing - has kept them from talking about this crucial topic.

How often does this occur? Based on over thirty years of advising organizations on management issues, I'd say this happens a lot. It is cloaked by the fact that other reasons are blamed for problems created by a failure to have periodic conversations about priorities and guiding philosophies. We tend to talk about specific issues and miss the big picture.

As a wit once said, "It's hard to see the picture when you're inside the frame." My prescription? Schedule some philosophical discussions with your direct reports. Learn about their operating theories and let them learn yours.

It will be time well spent.

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