Ignoring theory sounds really appealing sometimes, especially when the results are so much more relaxing. Theory conjures up someone else´s ideas about how things should work. Theory, as the saying goes, always sounds good, but once you try to infuse it into real life things go awry and you wonder whose idea it was anyway.
That´s one of the things that makes Bob Prosen´s new book, Kiss Theory Good Bye [okay; I think I will], is so refreshing. It´s smart, too, to begin a book with a bold presumption about the status quo. In Chapter One, "Stuck in the Status Quo: Five Crippling Habits That Attack from Within," Prosen is fairly blunt. He tells us straight up that just as individuals make excuses (but just a few, right?) companies and organizations do the same thing. Prosen says that companies suffering from these behaviors: 1) Absence of clear directives; 2) Lack of accountability; 3) Rationalizing inferior performance; 4) Planning in lieu of action; 5) Aversion to risk and change. Number 3 is a real stickler, right? Inferior performance usually isn´t hard to identify, but who´s going to bring it out into the open? That´s a different story, especially if it´s a leader who´s guilty of the sub-par performance.
Let´s tackle what Prosen says about that-it´s really about being defensive. It´s the old "I" versus "You" construct. There are fewer easier ways to get out of doing something than pointing to someone else. But when you step up and take responsibility, well, it might be more difficult and the risks might seem greater, but the outcomes can be monumental. Prosen offers a solution-"When people in a company aren´t meeting their goals, but they take ownership by communicating what they require to succeed, how much it will cost, and who needs to help them, that´s an example of an organization committed to results.
The trick, I think, is to get people focused on tasks rather than on the individual personalities involved in what has to get done. I know; how do you separate the two? Well, you focus, focus, focus. People tend to think it´s really easy to suddenly become disciplined and concentrate on one thing at a time. But isn´t that what you expect, for example, when the dentist is examining your teeth? Do you really want her trying to figure out how she´s going to get to the grocery store, get dinner cooked and help her kids with homework when she´s studying your gums? No, I didn´t think so.
Next time: More f/the guy who wants us to kiss good-bye to theory.