Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Control Paradox - Cont.

As we previously discussed, one of the unacknowledged irony of any organization (especially in a modern corporation) is something I call the "Control Paradox". Simply stated the Control Paradox is,
"Higher in the organization one rises, less actual control one has over the outcome."
"How can this be?" you ask, "This goes against everything I know! Doesn't a captain has more control over where the ship goes than some lowly smelly deckhand?"

Lets take our buccaneer ship as an example. While a captain may set the direction and desired destination, along with who gets to be the first mate, the purser and so on. He does not have the ability to control if the navigator will decide to plot the course, nor does he have any control over if the crews will man the sails and so on. The only way for the ship to get anywhere is if majority of the crew decides that it is where they wish to go too!

You may say, "Well if they won't do what I tell them, I'll just do it myself!"

Sure this may work when your responsibility or team is small, but this becomes impossible after a certain point. Just like a captain can't possibly sail the a frigate by himself, nor can any company leaders (be it Director, VP or CEO) no matter how talented can possibly perform all the tasks required for a company to be successful, or monitor how everyone does their job. This is why you are completely reliant upon your crew to carry out your orders, to execute, to just simply remember to show up!

"If this is the case, then what can a leader control?!" you may cry out in despair. Before you lose all hope, there are things that a manager can control and good captains/managers focus on these aspects of their job.

While you may not be able to control if your crew member or staff chooses to do perform a task, or how they perform a task. You can control how you inspire them and the rules that they are encouraged to live under.

Lets see what does a captain of our corporate buccaneer ship has control over,
  • Guidelines on how things should work
  • Reward and Punishments
  • What responsibility and authority to delegate
  • Who to sign-up for their crew (sometimes)
If you look at this list, you will quickly realize that they are all the things you do before as well as after someone actually gets down and roll up their sleeves to do their work. the "Before" items are things like who you hire, the amount of authority you give them, guidelines on how to perform the task, along with criteria for reward and punishment. The "After" is basically how you carry out your reward and punishment.

To all our current and aspiring buccaneering captains out there. Remember the lessons from the Control Paradox and focus on what you can control, and break things up into your before, during and after you give an order.

  • Make sure you hire a good team
  • Give them as much authority and responsibility as they can handle
  • Give them clear guidelines
  • Tell them what and when they would be rewarded as well as punished

  • Do NOTHING, other than go. Rah Rah Rah! or as the case maybe Huzzah!
  • Follow through and enforce your reward and punish as close to everyone's understanding and intent as possible
  • Adjust your "Before" according to the results
Just remember to let go, only judge the effort and method based on the outcome and only on the outcome. Always be aware of mental trap of the Control Paradox, and it is leadership not management that actually get your crew to jump up and go "Aye!" when you give an order.

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