I write about the things that matter to me. All opinions are my own.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Dark Side of "31 Flavors" Leadership

Screenshot via Replicator Inc., an interesting blog "about the companies and products that combine the connectivity of the internet with the physicality of products" - customized manufacturing, mass customization," etc.

When I was a kid I loved to go to Baskin-Robbins with my mom and try the new flavors. Invariably I always wanted peanut butter and chocolate or chocolate chip cookie dough, but it was all about the idea. Infinite choices, infinite freedom, infinite flavors, exploration -- give me that spoon!

Unfortunately with the constant inflow of newer-better-faster technologies, leaders tend to take the "out" of trying new flavors rather than solving old problems. One almost wants to say, "The task is to pass the SAT, not to find 15 apps that will help you study for it."

In the grownup world, attention-deficit-disorder-style management carried to the extreme lacks sensitivity to people. And yet, whoever you ask on the totem pole can recognize the following telltale signs and symptoms:
  • Flavor-of-the-moment initiatives and no follow-through 
  • Continuous change with no change management plan 
  • New policies and procedures that are ill-conceived and ill-communicated 
  • Decisions that seem arbitrary rather than reasoned 
  • The sense that things are "out of control" although one cannot pin the source down 
  • A chain of command, particularly middle managers, who seem as mystified as staff 
  • The sense that very few people hold most of the important information 
  • An emphasis on innovation, but a lack of dissent 
  • Failure to attend to the details of implementation 
  • Delays in decision-making over relatively simple matters
  • The sense that communicating basic common sense may be "offensive" 
Unfortunately, just like with losing weight or learning a new trade, there is no magic pill that will save you from the hard work of actually moving forward.

Hard work, performed consistently, in a way that is valuable for and to the people -- all of this is intuitive to true brand masters. Nike, Coca-Cola, Trader Joe's, Starbucks, Amazon, McDonald's and so on are all different companies, but share a credo of simplicity and stability. While it's true that they continually reinvent themselves to serve the market, they also remain remarkably recognizable and consistent, and they know and serve the customer first.

In the end, that's really the difference, isn't it: The leader is the one who sees the future and moves the organization toward it. The pretender is the one who sees only themselves, and rather than swimming to the shore, they flail -- dragging everyone else down with them in the process.

* All opinions my own.