Monday Musings 216 – The irrationality of quick change
The print and electronic media is filled with the 6 monthly report card of Mr. Modi. Every observer worth his ink and byte is adding his two bits on this subject. The general theme describes these 6 months as a lot of fan fare and blitzkrieg but not of much change on the ground. Many also consider Mr. Modi as lucky as some of the external factors like oil process have softened and so inflation control is not entirely his doing. Napoleon would have concurred because legend has it that when he used to recruit a general, apart from testing on skills of war he would also ask “but….is he lucky?”
I am more intrigued about general hurry everyone is in finding earth shattering change of nation correction within a span of 6 months, particularly when the mess took much longer to be created. I am not a big fan of Mr. Modi, his brand of politics and his persona per se, but this is not about him. I find similar theme at play in organizations very often.
A new manager in a team, a new leader in the function and a new executive in the organization are all burdened by the expectation of quick changes, overnight transformation and solving permanent and amicable solutions to longs standing problems, and to use a phrase used earlier, particularly when everyone realizes that the mess took far longer to create. Actually every time I see such a manager, leader and the chief executive, I feel sorry for him/her. I also believe it is grossly unfair to burden them with such unreasonable expectations even when they are already burdened by the onerous task at hand.
It is not difficult to understand why Mr. Modi on one hand and the manager/leader/executive on the other hand, carry that burden. Partly it is their own creation and partly they are at the receiving end of a fundamental human fragility. Since they come to power or chair on the promise of transformative change they are actually creating circumstances where people will judge them on the highest standard of delivery. In politics such promises are explicitly made, in organizations it is subtly hinted. The messiah metaphor is a burdensome cross to shoulder because messiahs are always under scrutiny in the salvation they deliver, and there is nothing more heartbreaking and disillusioning for the masses than to discover that gods they revered had feet of clay. Managers and leaders must be very careful in what they promise, explicitly and implicitly for if they raise expectations of the teams/functions/organizations they lead for correction, progress and change, they better deliver it. Hell hath no fury than a team disappointed!!
The second reason is a fundamental human fragility which is perpetually in search of a messiah – someone who has the magical prowess of ridding him of all that ails his mundane existence. Most of us have problems and most of them have no clue what to do with them. Whenever someone comes with an idea of a promise, either of the Promised Land, or of salvation or of solving the organizational strategy problem – the reaction is the same. We prostrate to his messianic powers, even though they are alleged and unproved as yet. The heady lure of a solution can blind even the most rational and the most objective. The problems of the nation cannot be solved in 6 months is rationally known to everyone. The problems of a team/function/organization cannot be solved in a year is known to everyone. Human beings love the notion of a magic wand. There is a starry eyed kid in each one of us who wants someone to solve our problems, accumulated over years – pronto! Sometimes it is the parents who take the shape of such messiahs, sometimes politicians and in organizations it is the manager/leader/executive. Surely it is their job to correct things and let us hold them to the highest standards of delivery and scrutiny, but can we be at least fair to them and give them a fair time frame to solve what they have begun solving.
Unreasonable time frame to show results because he was given a mandate for change and progress will make Mr. Modi commit errors – make him to focus on quick fixes and the tactical or manipulate results optically. The same happens when we give unreasonable time frames to managers/leaders/executive to ‘show results’. The pressure to show results in not always from the top, it is equally from the bottom when as team members we expect miracles from our leaders and to my mind the unreasonableness of this pressure for magical change from below is far more serious and damaging than the pressure from above.
Teams/functions/organization, like nations take time to correct and build. Let’s give Mr. Modi and our leaders in the function/organization that we work in, a fair time to make that change happen.