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#1 Lesson From Camp: Boys Can Do Hard Things

…or What Your Team Can Learn From a Group Of 12 Year-Olds 

I’ll go. There’s only the two of us and you’ve got all the gear in your truck. 

You’ll have to leave your car here. 

Yeah, I know. We can come back for it later this afternoon. Some of the boys aren’t going to make it if one of us doesn’t go with them.

There was no real reason for it. It was simply an extra activity that was tacked on the front of the week of Scout camp activities. The camp organizers decided that it would be a good idea for the boys to hike in on the first day. They didn’t have to carry their gear, just water and whatever snacks they wanted. 

  
The organizers said it was five miles. It was closer to six. 

Summer Camp is an interesting right-of-passage in American culture. Our boys go when they are 12 and 13. For some, it’s the first time away from their parents for that long. For most of them it’s a challenge, as we leaders take a step back and let them lead. Sometimes that means we eat at 9:30 PM because the cooking crew didn’t start the dutch ovens until about 7:00. Sometimes it means that the way I as a leader want something done, doesn’t  happen. Instead a boy uses his initiative to figure out a better, or at least a different way of doing something. 

Of course, these are still preteens, and just-barely-teens. For example, we had to put some pretty strict axe rules in place.

But, I’m being careful!

Yeah, well you didn’t seem to notice the boy who walked behind you on the backswing. You missed his head by inches.

Charlie slipped while climbing the cinderblock steps in the amphitheater during the morning flag ceremony. He was wearing shorts. Of course, he was wearing shorts. They all wore shorts all week. He scraped his shin pretty good. It bled slightly. As leaders we decided he would live, and we sent him on his way. 

Charlie seemed to get progressively worse throughout the morning. He complained of breathing issues. And he insisted he needed to go home. He was certainly hyperventilating and crying, but again, it appeared he would live. We suspected his illness was more a result of abscense than actual injury. 

Finally, it became obvious that nothing would satisfy him except heading home. 

I’ll take him. My car get’s better gas milage. 

I think he’ll be fine once he knows he’s headed home.

I agree. My problem is that I have to take one of my sons with me so we have two boys in the car. It’s about 3 hours round trip. Neither one is going to want to go.

I was right. Neither of my boys wanted to go. I offered to let them decide. Finally, the younger one came to me.

I’ll go.

Thanks. How did you guys decide?

Well, neither one of us wanted to go, but I knew he wanted to stay more than me.

I’m proud of you. That takes a lot of maturity.

Boys can do hard things.

Charlie did great on the ride home. We dropped him at him house in the care of mom. To his credit, he came back the next day and made it through the rest of the week without incident. 

Boys can do hard things.

I realized it was harder for me to accept my own sons doing hard things, or really anything at all, than it was for me to accept the other boys. My sons are the last of 13 children. They really are the babies. They have a niece who is almost two years old. I tend to think of them as the kids who need the most supervison. In some cases, that’s true. They are twelve after all. But, during Scout camp, I have a chance to see them interact with their peers everyday for a week. 

They continually surprise me.

How well does your team operate when you aren’t there? Do they accomplish their tasks independently? Should they? 

I can’t do the things my engineers can do. I know they are more technically accomplished than I am. But, I need to make sure I don’t assume that they are not as capable as I am. It’s temping to proscribe a policy for every situation the team members might find themselves in. Tempting, but a bad idea. 

If you never give your team the opportunity to make decisions, they won’t grow. And, in business, if you aren’t growing you are not exactly dying, but at least stagnating. I can hear some of you now,

But, if I let them make decisions, they might make the wrong decision.

That is 100% true. . .and important. 

Good judgement comes from experience.

Experience comes from poor judgement.

If your team has no chance to fail, they have no true chance of success. (Yeah, I know that sounds like a lame motivational poster, but let me explain.)

Your job as a manager is to grow your team, both as a team and as individuals. You should be giving your team the opportunity to develop. We are typically pretty good at developing “hard” skills, like technical or writing skills. We are often less good at developing soft skills like relationship building, decision making and critical thinking.

If we were teaching someone how to install Windows, it would be crazy if we gave them a fully functioning Windows system and simply explained how we had installed it. No, to truly teach them, we have to give them the opportunity to install it themselves. And with that opportunity is the chance of failure. They may configure it wrong. 

Give the team the opportunity to make the same progress in decision making. If there is no room for personal choice, there is no room for growth. 

Your team can do hard things.

When we started the hike, the troop quickly split into two groups. The faster boys soon disappeared around the bend in the windy mountain road. I’m a slow hiker. Plus, as the only leader on our hike I had to act as sweeper. When I got to camp, I needed to ensure that no boys were left on the road somewhere. 

An average hiking speed is 2.5 to 3 MPH. Hiking for 2-3 hours in the Utah desert can be a challenging activity. The boys all started strong, but several quickly fell behind. Their feet hurt, or they were thirsty, or they found some really interesting ditch full of mud to distract them. 

  
My job was to keep them moving and keep them from giving up. Sometimes I cajoled them. Sometimes I drove them. Sometimes I raced them. At all times I led them. When they wanted to quit, I appealed to their pride. I also pointed out that we really had no choice. I didn’t have a car with me. 

At the end of 3 hours, we finally staggered into the camp. The ones who had dragged their feet the worst walked a little taller. It’s not everyone who can hike five miles (nearly six) in the desert. 

Boys can do hard things. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

#2 Lessons From Camp: Food Covers A Multitude of Sins

  
I felt bad for the kid. I didn’t blame him, but I still felt bad. He at least stumbled away from the rest of the boys before he threw up. 

It was a hotdog eating contest. Six boys, each trying to be the first to down two raw hotdogs. As leaders, we had wisely bowed out of this particular challenge. Each of us agreed, we would probably win. We also agreed winning would probably make us sick. 

I spent last week at Scout Camp. On the second night, Troop 1172 had challenged our troop and the camp staff to a food fight. There were multiple rounds, each with a different food. The stated objective was the same for each round: be the first to down whatever was put in front of us. The unstated objective was, “Do it without getting sick.” 

In both business and Scouting, food is a critical element to success, even though food is not a central part of either business or Scouting’s mission. The Scout camp was being sponsored by the local troops. This was important because it meant that the local units had to not only provide food for their own boys, but feed the camp staff as well. My lovely wife was one of those designated to help.

I need you to get up and cook breakfast at 7:00 AM for the camp staff on Wednesday; pancakes and sausage.

Okay, how many did they say will be there?

Probably about 40. 

That’s a lot of pancakes.

She cooked the sausage before hand and sent it up with one of the wives cooking food on Tuesday. Tuesday evening I tracked down the staff contact.

Yeah, so, I’m supposed to cook breakfast for 40 of you tomorrow?

Well, not quite. It’s actually a few less. 

Oh? How many do you have?

Probably about 12.

We have way too much food.

It worked out well. We simply invited the boys from our troop to come eat breakfast with the staff. We had eight boys. They were short 28 staffers. We didn’t end up with any extra food. 

It’s a proven truism in the IT industry that more favors get bought with doughnuts than with any other form of payment. Engineers and programmers are not normally “morning” people. If you want engineers to come to your morning meetings just tell them your bringing doughnuts. I’ve had to literally turn people away from my meetings when it was known we had Krispy Kremes.

Bill, you’re not assigned to my project. Why are you here?

I heard you had doughnuts and thought I might sit in on your meeting.

At least they are typically up front about it. I once ran a small software company. Everyone, except the office manager and me, were programmers. As president I made the decision to provide free drinks for the developers. My office manager didn’t understand the cost justification for the expense.

You know, Rodney, Dave drinks a lot of Diet Coke. I mean A LOT.

Okay, Ryan, let’s look at the math. Dave makes $80,000 per year and he’s on salary. I we don’t provide the Diet Coke, he’s going to walk down to the Maverick store on the corner twice a day to get his caffeine fix. That’s thirty minutes per day that he’s not going to be programming. 

Okay. . . .

Thirty minutes a day is about ten hours per month. At $80,000 a year, he makes about $40/hour. So, I’m going to pay him $400 a month for time he’s walking to the store. Or, for less than $100 per month, I can supply him with all the Diet Coke he can drink. And as a bonus, he thinks I’m a great guy for doing it. 

I think as one of our basic needs, food appeals to us in primal ways that money or other rewards does not. I used to do a monthly data center maintenance. We’d work overnight on the third Friday of the month. I always supplied food. Once every six months, I’d have one of the engineers cater BBQ brisket. It was delicious.

George, we’re only going to have you cater about twice a year.

Yeah, I would image the $500 price tag is a little hard to justify. 

Not at all. I have 50 people for ten hours at a bill rate of $72/hour. My labor budget for the maintenance is $36,000. Your $500 food bill is a rounding error. No, I just want to make sure that the BBQ is seldom enough that it is treated like a big deal. I don’t want people to get complacent.  

In addition to the hotdog contest, the food fight involved several other challenges.

  • How many marshmellows can you stuff in your mouth? Staff won with 7
  • How quickly can you eat three saltine crackers and then whistle? Our sole win
  • Eat two graham crackers with your hands behind your back. Staff again
  • Chug a can of rootbear fastest. Staff
  • Drink a quater cup of lemon juice while keeping a straight face. Our host’s sole win

Since the staff representatives were 14 and 15 year old boys. We really didn’t stand a chance. They can eat anything. Well, except for raw hotdogs, apparently. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

#3 Lessons From Camp: There Is No Project Management Merit Badge…But There Should Be

The boys are going to go walk the Honor Trail. You adults are welcome to do whatever you want for the next 30 minutes or so.

There is being off by a little and then there’s being off like these guys were about to be.

Project Managers do one thing: We manage projects. I took a class when I prepared for my Project Manager Professional (PMP) exam. In the course, we had people from all industries. I was from software, someone else was from construction. Another guy was from manufacturing. Project Management is a skill that largely transends industries. 

For example, when I get a new project handed me, I wanted to know the answer to several questions:

  1. What is the budget?
  2. What is the schedule?
  3. What are the features?
  4. Who are my stakeholders?

I could be buiding a call center, or designing a piece of software. The questions don’t change. 

I went to Scout camp last week. The scout camp was put on by the local troops. We are all sponsored by LDS congregations, and the local leaders put together the camp. Like most non-project managers they WAY underestimated how much work it would be. 

To the credit of the people putting it on, they did a pretty good job. It started on time. It ended on time. We did MOST of the stuff they wanted to plan. But, occasionally, their lack of PM skills really showed up. The night of the Honor Walk was the worst. 

An Honor Walk is a solemn experience. The boys go in small groups and travel from point to point. At each point someone is standing there to explain an aspect of the Scout Law. If you’ve never heard the Scout Law, it’s:

A Scout is

Trustworthy
Loyal
Helpful
Friendly
Courteous
Kind
Obediant
Cheerful
Thrifty
Brave
Clean and
Reverent

Scouts are expected to try to live their life by this law. Overall, I think you could go a long ways before finding a better code of conduct. On the Honor Walk, someone is there at each station to take 4-5 minutes and explain each point of the Scout Law. Then the group of boys moves to the next station. 

Thirty minutes?

I did the math in my head before we walked out of the ampitheater. 

Let’s see, twelve stations, five minutes each, that’s an hour right there. Figure probably two or three minutes to walk between stations, that’s another thirty minutes. It’s probably going to get stacked up at certain stations, so figure another fifteen to twenty minutes. My estimate? 2-2.5 hours. 

The other issue was that the Scoutmaster and I now had some time to kill. We both have boys in the troop. 

Well, now what do we do? I assumed that they would have some sort of training that they would go through with us while the boys were out. 

Yeah, I’d really kind of like to go through the walk with my son. Did you see which direction our troop went?

The Scoutmaster managed to track down our troop. I got snared by one of the camp leaders. 

Rodney, could you go around the stations and ask them to keep it down to 3 minutes? We are running way behind. 

Part of the problem was that the Honor Trail led up the side of a mountain. 

  
It was getting dark. The trail off the mountain wasn’t well marked. I became a roadsign; hangin up a red light to guide boys and leaders to the trail. 

  
Project Managers can sometimes be hard to justify hiring. Afterall, they don’t really DO anything. We talk, we schedule, we hold meetings. But, we don’t build anything. We don’t create anything. Why pay a project manager who can’t code when what you really want to do is build a website? 

My first agent was a wonderful woman named Barbara Bova, may she rest in peace. I went to her with a signed contract and offered her 10% of the already signed deal to be my agent. She was able to renegotiate the contract and get me a 20% bonus. She more than earned back her commission. 

PMs are the same way. They (we) are trained to help you keep a project on track and on budget. That’s an important objective when you are in the development phase. On many projects a delay of even a few weeks can cost more than the PM’s salary. 

It was frustrating to watch the camp, which the boys and I really enjoyed, suffer from such easily fixed issues. I knew as soon as they announced the Honor Trail that they were not going to meet their timelines. With just a little bit of professional help, they could have greatly increased the boys’ experience. 

But, they don’t give merit badges for Project Management. Maybe they should. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

#4 Lessons From Camp: It’s About The Boys Not The Leaders

(Or what I learned about corporate meetings while sitting around the campfire. )

Tonight we’d like to take a moment and recognize a couple of individuals. First, we’ll take a few minutes to talk about the Silver Beaver award and next we’ll take 15 minutes or so to hold a Woodbadge “Bead” ceremony.

I’ve been involved with Scouting for the past 39 years; from the time I was eleven years old, I fell in love with it. I’ve been to countless summer Scout camps. Last week I went again, this time as an Assistant Scoutmaster. I accompanied my two youngest sons who are just starting out in the Scouting program. 

Scout camp is a wonderful time. You sleep in a tent for six days, eat campfire food, get sunburned despite your best efforts, wear the same shirt everyday, but mostly, you get to watch boys learn and grow. My sons are currently the patrol leaders for their respective patrols. It was amazing to me that they could keep track of themselves, let alone take a leadership role for other boys. 

Camp, and in fact Scouting in general, is about the boys. It’s not Adult Scouts of America, it’s BOY Scouts of America. And that’s why I was disappointed at the evening fireside event one night. It was late in the week. The boys were past the hyper-active stage, but not yet to the “I’m tired and want to go home” stage. Two hundred of them gathered at the ampitheater for the evening ceremony. 

  
It turned out to be really boring. 

Not for the adults, of course. Just for the boys. 

The Silver Beaver award is the highest honor that can be bestowed on an adult scouter. It is not an award that can be earned in the sense that a man sets out to complete a series of requirements. It can only be awarded, as an acknowledgment of a lifetime of service. 

Let’s, for the moment, set aside the concept of adult awards in an organization for boys. (Actually, let’s not even get into that topic in this post, because I’m trying to stay positive.) The boys at camp are concerned with merit badges, and the winner of the campwide games, and “Please don’t ask me to call the flag ceremony because I’m not sure if I say ‘two’ before or after the salute.” They boys are not at all interested in ths Silver Beaver. Even I, as an adult scouter am only somewhat interested. But, we sat through an explanation of the history of the award, the prestigiousness of it and the worthiness of the recipeint. 

Okay. Glad that’s over. Let’s get to some of the boy stuff. These kids are getting restless.

Woodbadge, is the BSA adult leadership training. It’s a week of “camping for grownups.” Once completed, you get a special neckerchief and a set of wooden beads that you can wear for the rest of your life. It has nothing to do with the boys and everything to do with the adults.

   

The ceremony of presenting someone with their beads is the adult equivalent of a Court of Honor. I received my beads about 3 years ago. The training is worthwhile and the ceremony is memorable. It’s also all about the adults. We watched the beads be awarded and listened to people talk about the benefits of Woodbadge.

By the time we ended, the boys were beyond bored. They were busy throwing rocks at the scouts sitting in the seats in front of us. (We sat in the back specifically so we wouldn’t be the targets of other bored rock throwers.) Meetings, and ceremonies are important. But, if you don’t tailor the meeting content to the audience, meetings are a little slice of slow death that you will never get back. 

The following night, the camp leaders had a chance to make up for the boring meeting. We spent Friday afternoon playing campwide games; knife throwing, knot tying, archery. Games designed to test their knowledge and encourage them to work together. We had twelve patrols and the games took all afternoon. At the closing ceremony, the boys were anticipating seeing who won. 

   
    
 

Did our record time in the multi-person-ski event hold up, or did one of the later patrols beat us? 
Who managed to get the knife closest to the bullseye? 

Which patrol and troop did the best overall?

Scouting recognizes that boys are motivated by competition. Do it right, and even those who didn’t finish first walk away a winner. 

I know we told you we’d give out the awards tonight. And we started compiling the results. When we got to 18 individual awards we decided that was enough, too much, in fact. We’ve decided that we have so many awards that we can’t really give out any awards. Just consider yourself all winners.

Huh? 

It’s like the famous baseball player, Yogi Berra was in charge: “That restaurant has become so crowded that no one goes there anymore.” 

What’s important to you, as a manager is often not important or interesting to your employees. They don’t want to know how many meetings you had to go through to come up with the final promotions list. They simply want to know who got the promotion. They don’t care about the three hour meeting you had with legal to finalize the contract wording around the new product launch. They just want to know when the project starts. And they really don’t care about the details of the manager’s retreat and how you had to spend all day travelling to get to the resort where it was held. They just don’t. If you really want to share, put in an email.

Meeting time is precious. A staff meeting is the single most expensive meeting you will ever have. Everyone stops working and comes together. Do not waste this time. Make sure your content is valuable and most importantly, applicable to all, or at least a majority of your staff. 

If it’s not, don’t be surprised if they start throwing rocks at each other. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Lessons From Camp #5: Buffer or Risk Death

It was crazy. I was flying along a single lane mountain dirt road at 12:30 at night. Actually, driving it at night was faster than during the day. At night I didn’t have to worry about meeting an oncoming truck around a blind corner. I’d see their headlights before I saw them. At least I think I would. My biggest worry was hitting a deer.

   
This was the warning signs when I turned off the highway.

 
Here’s what the road looked like during the hike in with the boys. Not much of it was this straight.

I spent last week at a Boy Scout camp with two of my sons and six other boys. We were at a camp called Bennion Creek near Scofield, UT. It was about 30 miles up Spanish Fork Canyon and then down a six mile dirt road.

Can we get cell service here?

Oh sure, people have had pretty good luck from the top of the ridge south of the camp. It’s about a mile around by car, or you can hike up from the stream.

Being disconnected was refreshing. I took my pocketwatch since I assumed phones would be very inconvenient clocks. I had a great time. So, why did I spend every evening driving the six miles down the dirt road to the highway? 

Lack of a buffer. 

I’ve been writing this blog for about two and a half years. I haven’t missed a day since I started. Monday – Friday: 7:00 AM Mountain Time. My hope is that it adds a little light hearted start to your day. Hopefully, entertains, or even possibly educates just a little. 

I didn’t write my blog entries before going to camp. 

Oh, I meant to. I had my topics all worked out. (Signs of a bad manager.) I just never sat down and did it. 

My friend Howard Tayler writes Schlock Mercenary. He’s been writing and publishing a comic on the web every day since June 12th, 2000. He’s never missed a day. He’s my role model. 

But, Howard is smarter than I am. He creates a buffer. Typically he’s writing 30 days ahead of his publishing schedule. It lets him go on vacation, or to a convention, or even get sick without worrying about breaking his streak. 

Like I said, I’m not that smart. I figured out at camp that I could hook my bluetooth keyboard up to my phone and compose blog entries on the phone. My iPad, the platform I normally use, only has wifi, no cellular capabilities. And my phone is a Cricket phone. Great price, but no hotspot capabilities. 

So, I wrote an email to myself that was the blog entries last week. Then, after all the boys were in bed, I got in my car and headed out to the rest stop about a mile down the highway. But before the highway was the road. Just under six miles of twisty-turny-blind-corners dirt. 

I loved it. 

I averaged 40 mph on my way to the highway. That’s probably 15 mph more than I should have. 

Once I got to the rest stop, I still couldn’t make a call, but I could get data through. I then copied the contents of the blog email and opened http://www.wordpress.com in a browser. I missed getting to use some of the advanced features that are in the app. But, the show must (did) go on. 

I’m still not writing a buffer, but I have a much better grasp of the risks now. Who knows, maybe I’ll start buffering tomorrow when I talke about how scout camp should be boy focused and it fails when it’s not. There’s a business less there. Stay tuned. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

#1 Sign You’re A Bad Manager: You Don’t Trust Your Team

Rodney, where were your yesterday?”

“Were you trying to get hold of me?”

“No, I just noticed you were away from your desk for 4 hours.”

“So, you weren’t looking for me?”

“No, I just don’t think you can be effective away from your desk.”

Interesting, my manager expressed his complete trust in me. She seemed genuinely surprised that I viewed her question as a trust issue.

Isn’t your job as a manager to keep your people effective? Isn’t it your job to keep your team on task?

Yes.

Is it your job to manager their day to day tasks?

Possibly. Certain jobs require direct supervision. Those jobs mean that the manager is watching the employees. In those cases, watching your employees day to day work isn’t a lack of trust. It’s being an effective manager.

Other jobs, most jobs in my opinion, require employees work at least somewhat independently. In those cases, monitoring your employees that closely will make them think you don’t trust them.

Jared worked for a computer company. He worked for home as a programmer. He got paid by the job, not the hour. At one point his employer decided it would be a good idea to install a keyboard logger on each employees computer.

They wanted to ensure that their employees were working. They didn’t understand why their employees would see this as a lack of trust.

If you have done nothing wrong what do you have to fear, right?

Wrong.

Trust is earned, it’s not given.

So, why should you trust your employees until they’ve proved their are worthy of it?

Because you hired them. You trusted them when you hired them, didn’t you? If you didn’t trust them when you hired them, you shouldn’t have hired them.

Until they show you they don’t deserve your trust, you should trust them. And if you trust them, you owe it to them to treat them like you do.

It’s not only rude to micro-manage your employees and check up on them when there’s not reason to, it’s also an extreme lack of trust. If you want your employees to trust YOU, you have to earn it. It takes a long time to earn trust and only a single instance to lose it.

If you want your employees to trust you, trust them. If you trust them, treat them like you do.

Signs You’re A Bad Manager #2: Policy Over Results

“Paul, I’ve changed your extension.”

“What, on my desk phone?”

“Yeah, it had a 614 area code. It will not advertise as an 801 number.”

“But people know that 614 number.”

“Oh, you can still receive calls at either number. Just when you make a call it will show as coming from 801.”

“Okay, why after 2 years did you change it?”

“Company policy is out going call show 801.”

Paul’s manager is a bad manager. His first problem is that he changed Paul’s extension without telling him, without even discussing it. But, the worse problem is that his sole reason was “policy.” Policy should exist to support results. “We’ve always done it that way” is a cop out. It’s a reason to stop thinking and let someone years ago do your thinking for you.

A young couple had recently been married. The wife went to cook a roast. Before putting it in the oven, she cut off and threw away the ends.

“Why did you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Cut off the ends and throw them away.”

“I don’t know. It’s just the way my mom taught me.”

“Let’s call mom and ask her.”

“Hello, Mom? Why did you always cut off the ends of the roast before you cooked it?”

“I don’t know. It’s the way grandma showed me to cook roast. Try calling your grandmother.”

“Hello, Grandma? Why did you cut the ends of the roast off before cooking it?”

“Well, our pan was very small and it’s the only way I could make it fit.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to policy. I’m spending this week with eight boys and three leaders at a boy scout camp. We have plenty of policies.

– Always stay in groups of two

– No using an axe within arm’s reach of another person

– The patrol that doesn’t cook, does cleanup

But, each of these policies has a reason behind it.

– We are camping in the remote mountains in the desert. A boy could get lost and it would take days to find him. Two is harder to lose than one.

– Boys and axes are not always a good combination.

– Dividing the work keeps everyone involved and makes sure that a single person or group doesn’t have to do all the work.

We rigidly enforce these policies. There is another policy that says:

– Boys must wear uniforms to the twice daily flag ceremony

This is a rule or a policy. We suggest our boys follow it. If they show up without their uniform, they go to the flag ceremony anyway.

So, if policy is not the guiding principle for your organization, what is?

Results.

I interviewed for a Project Manager position a few years ago. Project Management program has multiple approaches to how to run a project. I was asked in the interview.

“Is there a single right way to approach project management?”

“Yes, whichever way gets the project completed on time, on budget with satisfied stakeholders.”

Your company has a purpose. You have something that you make, or do, or sell. I’m guessing that your country is not in business to make policies. If the policies are not providing value, they are hurting your business.

As a manager, focus on results. Get your team to focus on the purpose behind the policies. If you find yourself answering a question with “Well, because that’s our policy” consider changing your answer

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