I’ve been working 13 years. I’m about to turn 35 years old. (Less than one month, yay.) The first two years I was working, I taught inner-city elementary school in Houston as part of Teach for America. Then, I worked for ESPN for about a half-decade. The teaching job had tons of ROI — I was essentially “molding future generations,” which is somewhat terrifying if you actually know me — and the ESPN job mostly did. By “mostly” I mean: think about how many people watch ESPN religiously and cite information they’re providing or highlights they’re showing as gospel. I did that. I worked on that stuff.
Sometime around 2007 when I transitioned from ESPN TV to ESPN.com/ESPN The Magazine, the ROI of stuff I worked on at my job started to decline. It’s been about eight years now, and through a bunch of other jobs and opportunities, it’s never really come back. I often feel like I’m the king of no-ROI deliverables, and it’s somewhat depressing. Let me explain what I mean.
Let me try to walk through this logically. I may step on some land mines, and if/when I do, I apologize.
- If you have a business and that business makes any type of money or gets any type of funding, chances are it has some kind of “value prop” or “business plan,” right? (You’d hope.)
- Someone within the walls of that business should be able to describe the value prop or business plan. (Again, you’d hope.)
- If you’ve had one customer — even if it’s not a paying customer yet — and that customer has returned, then there’s someone out in the world who can explain what your product or service is. (Again, you’d hope.)
- At some point, you’ll probably need a website so that people can find you and understand who/what you are and what you do/produce/provide.
- Most websites are fairly vague and use sales/marketing-speak and buzzwords to convey their idea, instead of being upfront about it. (This is largely because of the advice of “marketing experts” or consultants.)
This whole topic is one that I wish more people would discuss more openly more of the time, because if you really get right down to it, the ability to change is pretty much everything in your life. Think about it just from a work/business perspective for a second: “change” is essentially a synonym with “growth,” and that’s what all organizations are ultimately chasing. The antonym of “change” is “stagnation,” and then tends to get people fired or companies shut down.
It’s kind of ironic, then, that change can be so hard for organizations — but it’s not at all surprising, because change in organizations needs to come from changes in people, and that’s challenging.
That seems counterintuitive, right? You want to be chasing strong ties and strong relationships, no?
Recognize that weak ties are more valuable for job performance and careers than stronger relationships. That’s because weak ties provide you non-redundant information, while the people to whom you are most strongly tied, close friends and colleagues, probably know approximately the same things and the same people as you do. Therefore, they do not add as much additional value.
I talked to my friend about this the other night and thought it was interesting, so I decided to turn it into a quick blog.
I wouldn’t say that “smart” and “fast” are necessarily the only two ways that an organization can move, and I wouldn’t even say that they have to be opposed — some companies in history have moved both quickly and intelligently on new ideas. It happens, although it’s probably pretty rare.
Put aside the semantics for a second and think of it like this:
- One side of the argument is that business today is ‘ever-changing’ and ‘moves so fast’ and ‘constant iteration is required.’ If that’s the case — and honestly, it may not be relative to industry — then it would seem that moving fast is the most important thing a business can do today.
- The other side is that ‘moving fast’ often involves making quick decisions and not fully evaluating a market, a series of conditions, a broader context, etc. — so while you can gain an advantage by moving quickly (you’re there first), you can also put yourself in a brutal loop of always chasing a new thing because you didn’t think through the steps (which would be ‘moving smart’).
Here’s a micro-level way to think of it: if you hear about a cool party, do you move fast to get there? Then you’re the first one there, and while that’s cool — booze and food! — it’s also a little lame. Or do you move smart and think about when to get there, who you want to be with, etc?
That’s a lame analogy, probably, but it has some value.
Just came across the writings of this guy Art Petty and specifically this blog about ’17 Ways Your Strategy Will Fail.’ I’ve written about this a couple of times — namely, that a ‘strategic plan’ is different from an ‘operational plan’ — so it was interesting to me. Here’s his basic list of reasons (I won’t do all of them):
- No shared view of what strategy is
- Confusion over who owns strategy
- Cross-purposes over vocabulary and key concepts
- Management team isn’t functioning as a team, but rather a series of individuals
- Strategy is treated as a one-or-two-time event, not a continuous process
- Power, politics, and status quo thinking
- Expecting templates to churn out transformative results
- Long-game strategy in a time when adaptability is more relevant
- Letting strategy determine budget
There’s more — you can read them all at the link above — but I’ll stop there. All of this stuff could not be more true if it tried. Let me focus on one aspect of it all, though.