From Davis Balestracci – Another Valued Stealth Mentor: "The Corporate Curmudgeon"

Published: Mon, 09/11/17

From Davis Balestracci – Another Valued Stealth Mentor:  "The Corporate Curmudgeon" (aka Dale Dauten)
©2011 by Dale Dauten (permission to use PDF version:  "in case you'd like to post it in your workspace or conference room. (Or, if you're feeling mischievous, you might post it on an executive's door.)")

Hi, Folks,
Turning 65 has really made me reflect back on my improvement journey. I have decided to be more curmudgeonly of late because I ache as I see no end to the ongoing frustration so many of you have to endure from your work environments.

One word that has always followed me around is passion – and this ramped-up curmudgeonliness comes from a passion of wanting you to succeed and get the respect your role deserves;  but it's going to take a non-trivial amount of work on your part if you truly wish to be accountable about earning this respect.  As I hinted in last newsletter, why are you tolerating predictable ongoing daily frustrations?

I am going to turn the back the clock again today. Like Dr. Sheila Sheinberg from last time, here is another source who makes me look sedate.

A True "Curmudgeon's Curmudgeon"

As I thought back to other major influences in my career who viscerally engaged me, "The Corporate Curmudgeon" (aka Dale Dauten) immediately came to mind. I discovered him in the mid '90s through his nationally syndicated weekly column.  His astute observations of corporate culture delivered with wicked wit were the reaffirming breath of fresh air I needed in my daily struggles with my organization as a change agent. He was always gracious whenever I contacted him for permissions, advice or feedback, especially in 2000 at a particular low point in my career, when he encouraged me to become an independent consultant.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this in November 2009:
"On management: an argument for the merits of intolerance,"  by Dale Dauten
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly.
That cheery wake-up call is from Marcus Aurelius, who, despite embracing the concept of low expectations, knew something about getting things done; he ruled the Roman Empire for nearly two decades and is remembered as the last of the "Five Good Emperors." 

What got me thinking about Marcus A. was reading an article from Quality Digest magazine by Davis Balestracci. That article includes this Zippo of a line: "Your current processes are perfectly designed to get the results they are already getting." 

In other words, if you don't like the results you're getting – the mistakes or the incompetence, or, worst of all, the indifference to the mistakes and incompetence – consider that the system in place is designed, perfectly, to produce just that. Or, said another way, every problem is a design problem.

Marcus Aurelius came to mind because he wrote this: "Everything that happens happens as it should, and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so." Wayne Dyer, who was not one of the Five Good Emperors but who has penned some good lines, argues,

Everything is perfect in the universe – even your desire to improve it.
So if you want to improve your universe by upping the quality of your organization's output, you have to figure out how to redesign the processes that are producing it, which often means changing the organizational culture. Balestracci argues this: "Quite simply, culture is created by what is tolerated."

When I spoke with him about his article, Balestracci went so far as to take on the greatest excuse of all: the lack of time or resources. He said, " 'Lack of' is never an option as a response – it only is because the culture has tolerated it as an option."  

Circling back to Marcus Aurelius, he wrote in his "Meditations": "A cucumber is bitter. Throw it away. There are briers in the road. Turn aside from them. This is enough. Do not add, 'And why were such things made in the world?' " Put that in terms useful for a modern manager: "I don't care why it happened; I only care that it doesn't happen again." That's efficient. That's effective. That's intolerant.
Management that speaks in clichés – such as "We need a clear and common vision" – is management that tolerates mediocrity, and what is tolerated is the culture.
Remember that line from Davis Balestracci: "Quite simply, culture is created by what is tolerated."
Hmmm. "What is tolerated." If that's true, then the solution is to be intolerant? Exactly. Intolerance is one of the great secrets of management, and perhaps its most underutilized resource. 

[Thanks, Dale]

"Everything is perfect in the universe – even your desire to improve it.

What have been the perfectly designed results of the past 30+ years' of ongoing good intentions regarding improvement?

Isn't it time to add an appropriate element of intolerance to our responsibility for improvement? It's time to take personal accountability for dealing with the tolerance of activity versus impact. Most bolt-on programs continue to refuse to acknowledge and deal with a system that is perfectly designed to consistently frustrate such efforts at every turn  – and that includes what Dauten called "the mistakes or the incompetence, or, worst of all, the indifference to the mistakes and incompetence."

Is your improvement effort by formal design or default resulting from culturally influenced "toleration"? (Remember Jim Verzino's quote?)

But, as you have been forewarned:  It's not going to be about changing "them." Here is your first design principle (using QBQ!):

"How do  exhibit intolerance in such a way that no one could argue with the value I bring to the organization?" **

Are you ready to accept my challenge yet?

In 2011, Dauten decided to stop writing his column and did some reflections similar to mine. His next-to-last column was a particularly sage summary. He graciously granted me permission to use it, and you will get a chance to read it next time.

Until then...everything is perfect in the Universe – even peoples' desire to have me come to their organizations.  I've lost count of the many conference talk assurances, e-mails and phone calls promising, "Davis, I'm going to have you come to my organization;  but 'this isn't the right time' "...and, turns out, it never is.

"Lack of..." is never an option, and that includes budgeted funds – and time:  Lack of time = Lack of priority. 
[People who are tempted to say, "But I am too busy!" should read this brief little gem]

Remember Dauten's final line: Hmmm. 'What is tolerated.' If that's true, then the solution is to be intolerant? Exactly. Intolerance is one of the great secrets of management, and perhaps its most underutilized resource.

"It's time"  for you to be seen as a leader and innovator.

Kind regards,

** Chapter 2 of Data Sanity is perfectly designed to help you demonstrate the value you bring to your organization
Here is an example most of you are tolerating every day.

Becoming intolerant of similar situations – and getting quick results no one will argue with –  will get you the respect you deserve!

Data Sanity: A Quantum Leap to Unprecedented Results is a unique synthesis of the sane use of data, culture change, and leadership principles to create a road map for excellence.

  • US Amazon currently has it discounted 24 percent with free shipping

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My publisher has informed me:  "I now have the book available in Australia and New Zealand. And several other countries as well."  He has also lowered the price a bit in these countries.
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