Manage your own job description

I’ve been reading The Intelligent Leader blog on washingtonpost.com.  It channels a lot of content from the Harvard Business School, but don’t hold that against it.  The editor Scott Berinato strikes a good balance between of syndicated content and fresh comment.  The Management Tip of the Day is a nice feature as well.  Today’s entry hits on a common issue for project, program, and portfolio managers:

Most managers sabotage their productivity by grappling with an endless list of demands from others. They assume — wrongly — that those demands are requirements and that they have no personal discretion or control over their jobs.

In the tech industry, this trap is an almost universal rite of passage.  When you hear someone described as “not strategic,” it is because they’ve made themselves “order takers”.  They include one set of tips, but I though it was worth modifying them below:

  • Slow down — that is, don’t immediately react.  You’ll be surprised how many demands simply disappear.
  • Set priorities — and insist that requesters do the same.
  • Stick to those priorities — and point out mutually-exclusive or competing priorities to others.

The executive I report to is excellent at handling such requests.  He clearly indicates that our organization wants to do whatever is best for the firm — but “best” means we’ll have to ask questions and insist on transparency w/r/t the request’s impacts.  Does our requester understand the impact on other priorities (sometimes the requester’s own)?  Who is the sponsor for this?  What will the executive team say when we go for approval?

Leadership and Strategy in the Bubble

I just commented on a post by Scott Berinato over at washingtonpost.com (here).  Per my comment, it was a strong, link-rich post that pulled together a lot of threads.

As promised, I did take a closer look at Umair Haque’s piece on “Saving Strategy from the Strategists” (here).  I still think he’s seeing a strategy disconnect that isn’t there, but with an additional twist.  Yes, the expanded definition of “too big to fail” made inflating the bubble a perfectly rational (if not legitimate or public-minded) approach for many players. 

The twist is that the security blanket the Feds provides infantilizes financial industry strategic thinking — especially during serious easing cycles.  As the feeding trough gets crowded and frenzied, a firm’s strategy becomes very basic:

  1. Push hard to get your snout in.
  2. Lobby hard to ensure you’re not the one institution the Feds will make an example of.
  3. Settle in for a long meal.

As I said before, what does “the long run” mean when much of the financial industry expects Uncle Sam to keep filling the trough, even if/when things went south?

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