Catch and Kill: The Trump Tulsa (non) Rally

The Trump Rally in Tulsa this past Saturday was a failure. The 19,000 seat arena was embarrassingly empty. Ticket “sales” were over 1 million; actual attendance about 6,100. Nothin’ to camp out for here … head to Walmart. Try to pick up some toilet paper…

Once Trump realized no one was showing up, the overflow area and speakers were cancelled. Fox cameras juggled to tighten shots of the President in an effort not to show the empty seats. The Fake and Real news looked around for action only to find none.

Through a variety of social media threads, we have learned that hundreds of thousands of people (voters and non-voters) joined together, quietly and effectively, in an organic grass-roots movement whose sole purpose was to fuck with Trump. Well done. It seems the Oklahoma Resistance is alive and well, and just as disgusted with Trump as the California battalion.

The city of Tulsa has a population of about 400,000; the entire state of Oklahoma: 4 million.

Is it possible that the Trump campaign truly believed that a MILLION people were going to attend this rally? At what point was someone going to use that prep-school education, run some percentages, and realize that ticket sales might be a catch and kill? This is the literal price of hubris.

By surreptitiously obtaining tickets to Trump’s “Daddy Needs Love,” event and then ghosting him, Millennials (X-ers, et al) have managed to do something very powerful: Shake Trump’s confidence. And that’s no easy feat.

They’ve also done something else very powerful: They let Trump know the red states aren’t “his people.” They’re sick of him. They’re tired of being branded as racists because they live in Oklahoma, Alabama, or Missouri, and they want him out of here.

The other reason this ghosting is of such political significance is that the majority of The Resistance is not of voting age. Much like the students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, the fact that teenagers cannot vote will not prevent them from being heard. They have an agenda. It includes gun laws, education, and Kapernick. And, they’re not going to shut up about it just because some dottering old man – like Trump – insists on telling the same old stories at the dinner table…

“My mom said that I had to invite him, but I’m so sick of his Trump bullshit. I’m not doing it anymore….”

This rally carried no real surprises. Trump’s audience knows he has little tact. They’re uninterested in policy, and fully expect Donny to sling mud at his political rivals like a toddler after a rainstorm. A political Jerry Springer; It’s the show they pay for…

While campaign aides might sooth The Donald by saying he has 6K votes from Tulsa, if you subtract media, staff, federal and municipal law enforcement, stadium staff, and a large number those who attended to “see the train wreck of history,” I’d say that last night was a great night for the Democrats.

November will be here soon. In the meantime, can someone tell me what TicTok is?

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Copyright 2020 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

How Would YOU Caption This?

This cartoon and it’s original caption, “Describe what you can bring to this company,” has gone viral on Twitter and FB. I’ve collected a few hilarious – and a few very pointed – responses off the various feeds, and I would like to hear….

How would you caption this?

~Well, you are the most qualified, but I’m not sure I want to get a beer with you.

~I don’t disagree with your recommendations, but you need to tone down your presentation. You don’t want to sound bitter.

~We are ready to begin the inquiry into the sexual harassment complaint you filed.

~If you work really, really hard and prove yourself, we might consider hiring you full time.

~I’m not sure that the team will respond to your management style.

~The most important thing is we hire someone who reflects our culture and values.

~I’ll have the turkey wrap, and make sure there’s enough cookies and water for the afternoon.

“~~my life debating Republicans in committee each week.” – AOC

~I’m not sure you have the leadership skills for this job.

~We’re looking for a team player. Are you a team player?

~If all you bring is your gender and skin color, then you aren’t worth very much.”

Covid Changes Us All (for the Better!)

Here’s a few thoughts on what changes we as consumers and employees will be looking for from businesses in a post-Covid world. Things will be different …

Self-Checkout or No Checkout

Ahh, yeah…. I don’t want people touching my stuff anymore.

After I’ve put something in my cart, I’m happy to not have anyone else touch it.  Covid caution has me watching the checkout clerk and every other person in the store. And, what I see is that the clerk touches every single thing every person in line has touched.  Them, and all their germ-y, unmasked kids as well. 

Gloves protect the clerk.  They don’t protect me.

With that said, I need to do my part and not pick up every package of chicken to look for a price difference of 40 cents, or touch every apple in the bin before selecting the perfect two. Merchandisers take note. Label placement, font size and produce shelving changes maybe in order.

I’m happy to bag my own things (packing a grocery bag well is as old-fashioned as counting back change), and pay with a credit card – no PIN required. Of course, who wouldn’t prefer the Amazon approach of associating things in my basket to my account so I don’t have to breath on anyone?

Restaurant Take-Out Replaces Fast Food

Fast food isn’t necessarily fast, and it’s not exactly cheap. More importantly, I didn’t miss fast food during my Covid Quarantine, I missed real restaurant food.

Apparently, I’m not alone in my longing for food cooked by a pro (or at least someone other than me!) This is why I was so thankful that my go-to bistros were able to pivot to take out. They got their website in order; they added a cart. They have text notifications. They re-did their menu so food travels better. They started offering “Family” sizes. (You don’t need a family, you just need to love left-overs or have a freezer). Moreover, now that restaurants are opening again, they’re finding that people would gladly pay a few bucks more for their food than the #2 from Carl Jr’s (who makes a fine burger, and chicken sandwich, BTW)

If I can order it easily, and get it in a reasonable time, there’s no reason I won’t choose the Parmesan Brussel Sprouts and Ahi salad take out.

Fast food and similar chains have a great strength, which is the consistency of their menus. That’s exactly why we go there, but it’s exactly why I don’t want to eat at another Five Guys. When bistros and upscale restaurants can provide take-out and delivery quickly and easily, the market for restaurants in fast-food space diminishes.

For me, this restaurant case study provides the most compelling example of change. GrubHub recognized the need, but even with their success, many eateries were unwilling to change. Why? Change is disruptive, expensive, annoying, time consuming, stressful. Moreover, there was no need to change. Things were good exactly as they were; dining rooms were full.

Now that they were forced to change, many are discovering that 1) It wasn’t as difficult or disruptive as they thought it would would be (in their head) and, 2) Take out is here to stay, it’s easier than they thought, and it will provide a revenue stream that will likely prove more resilient to future disruptions.

Office Commutes = Empty Calories

If commuting were food, it would be classified as “empty calories,” and expensive empty calories at that!

Many of us drive to a big, crowded indoor space to sit in a cubicle by ourselves most of the day. Why? Rather than strategically schedule F2F meetings, business was conducted with the assumption that everyone would be in the same place and available M-F, 9-5.

We can still see each other IRL, but it needs to be planned, purpose-driven, and not ad-hoc.

The cost of commuting: Car, gas, tolls. That’s nothing compared to the time, especially if you use PT. Many people spend 45 – 60 minutes commuting to/from their jobs. This comes to about 10 hours a week – more than an entire workday. Time IS Money and commuting is neither billable hours nor training nor investment. For example: If you picked up a retail job for 10 hours a week, you’d pull in an extra $600 a month. If you worked in the trades, that 10 hours a week could easily be $1200 – $2k a month. Neither is a small amount of money. Ten hours a week is also about two college classes, including homework.

The WSJ reported the Covid crisis resulted in a 30% increase in the individual savings rate. Much of this saving was realized by not having to commute. Filling up your tank at $50-$60 bucks a pop adds up quickly. Not having to do that was a big contributor to people’s extra cash.

If we want to save the planet AND save money, we need to stop commuting into an office everyday.

I Want to Live Someplace Else

I rob banks because “that’s where the money is.” It’s also the reason I live in Southern California – one of the most expensive places on earth. Sure, it’s pretty here, but it’s pretty in lots of places. However, the reason I’m here has nothing to do with pretty: I’m here because that’s where the money is.

The majority of us live where we do because if we lived further away, it would be impossible to commute.  Even if we were willing to make the commute, many companies simply will not hire you if they feel you live too far away (or if they don’t like your neighborhood, but that’s a topic for another day). My hope is that Covid makes the requirement all workers reside within a certain geographical radius of some office building as old as the rotary, corded phone.

Where I live, just like my age, gender, or race, shouldn’t be considered when hiring talent.

I want to live where it suits me, my family, and my current life circumstances. I don’t want change my personal and financial priorities just to be 30 minutes away from some leased office building.

I Want to Work for Whomever I Want

Similar to where I live, I don’t want to be limited to working for companies within a 50 mile radius of my home. I want people to be able to hire me and work with me even if I don’t live in St. Louis or Chicago or Puerto Rico. I want to pursue jobs with growing companies, and opportunities that use my skills and experience. I don’t want my career and earning potential to be limited to a few employers with physical offices in my city. 

People will be able to find better jobs and better employers if they are not limited by geography.

Companies who have embraced virtual workers prior to Covid can attest that they are able to attract better talent than they would if they limited themselves to hiring someone who lived within a 30 mile radius (even less for places like NY, LA, and Chicago). It seems logical that if companies can find better talent, talent will find better companies if they, too, are not limited by geography.

Choose How Covid Changes You

A little more than six years ago, I suffered a sudden, and major illness. It required several hospitalizations, and more than year to fully recover. Like most people who come through something like this, they find their life and all the little routines and assumptions upon which it was built have changed – forever. In retrospect, I can say that I would not have chosen my health crisis, but I would not change it either because it has given me a focus and perspective and strength I would not have gained otherwise.

Covid – our collective health crisis — has brought so much change, with so much more to come. I wouldn’t have chosen it, but I don’t think I would change it either…

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Copyright 2020 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

W2 or C2C?

One of the questions I get asked most often from those considering contract work is whether to work as a W2 contractor or should they incorporate so they can bill corp-to-corp (C2C).  The answer is – it depends – and it mostly depends on you.

If you are going to contract long term, or you have a particular expertise that you sell, eventually you will move from working as a W2 Contract Employee to working as an Independent / Incorporated contractor or consultant.  Being independent means that you could be billing on a 1099 basis or you could be incorporated and use your corporation to bill the agent or client corp-to-corp (C2C).  Being independent means you are viewed as a business, which is a separate legal entity from yourself. When you’re independent, you have all the privileges and responsibilities of a business owner. “Responsibilities” is the key word here:  If you choose either 1099 or C2C, you will take home a lot more money than you would as a W2 Employee. But if you are not prepared to handle the responsibilities of being self-employed, mo’ money mo’ problems.

Whether you are a sole proprietor, in a partnership, or a principal of a corporation, if you are deriving “Schedule C” income, you are responsible for obtaining business licenses, paying business taxes, keeping accurate records, maintaining general liability, and other types of insurance.  If you’re working as a vendor, you may need to purchase and maintain your own tools, equipment, prepare your own contracts, invoices, and track your payables and receivables. Some clients will provide you a 1099 form for taxes; some do not. Sometimes they’re accurate; sometimes not.  Regardless, you are responsible for an audit trail of your gross receipts and expenses, maintaining bank records, and insuring you adhere to all applicable laws. You need to be prepared to prove everything if there is a discrepancy, and there will be.

When you are independent or incorporated, you are a vendor. Instead of a job description, you have a statement of work (SOW). The SOW details what you are to accomplish for the client, a time frame for doing so, and what the payment and acceptance criteria are. SOWs can be very general or very specific. Its specificity varies by the complexity of the project and your relationship with the client.

When you are a vendor, the client cannot dictate the means by which you complete your work.  So, if you wanted to assembly your PB&J in a different order in your kitchen that is your prerogative. The client can only accept or reject the work.

Most importantly, if you are billing as an independent or incorporated contractor, you do NOT have the same legal protections as you would as a W2 contractor. You are a vendor, just like the Crystal Geyser guy. If the customer decides to go with Sparkletts, Crystal Geyser doesn’t file for unemployment. If the delivery truck gets stolen, Crystal Geyser doesn’t ask the customer to buy them a new one. Similarly, like the Crystal Geyser vendor, you also have an implied warranty with your service.  If something goes wrong, your service is defective, you drop your Pepsi on someone’s laptop, it’s not a “My bad!” you are financially liable for that expense.  If your work is on the critical path of a project, be sure to talk to an insurance agent and your client to ensure you have the coverage you need.  If you own things – like a house – and want to keep it, you’ll need to incorporate.

You want to run a business?  Make big bucks?  We live in a litigious society. Don’t take chances.

Unlike W2 workers, your client will pay you every 30 days just like they pay all their other vendors. But, what if your client doesn’t pay you in 30 days? What if they pay you every 45 days or 60 days?  Or not at all? How long will you keep working without being paid?  A week?  A month?  Two months? How will you collect if they don’t pay?  What if they claim your work is defective, and they refuse to pay?   Similarly, who pays for your travel expenses? Are you putting them on your credit card and waiting for reimbursement? What if they don’t reimburse you or take months to do so? I’ve worked in big corporate offices my entire life: You’d be amazed how many rich companies don’t pay their bills on time.

If you can’t say no, can’t write a contract, could never see yourself suing someone, or all this sounds just too unpleasant for you, don’t waste time billing as an independent or incorporated contractor. I’ve listened to lots of stories (mostly from women I’m sorry to say) who thought they could handle this kind of relationship, and ended up being taken advantage of by someone who was really, really going to pay them as soon as <crisis> passed.

I can assure you that no one is more unpleasant than someone who owes you money.

When you bill as an independent contractor, you’re running a business. Why are you taking out a cash advance at 24 percent to pay your bills while your client (or worse, agent!) heads out to dinner with a full tank of gas in his BMW?

I can assure you that no one is more unpleasant than someone who owes you money, but when you truly work for yourself, you can’t put up with excuses. Other people’s bills and emergencies and sick kids are NOT your problem. Always track your hours and tasks; always keep copies of your work.  Be prepared to withhold work until you are paid for it.  Be prepared to walk off the job if you’re not paid on time, and be prepared to sue.  If you have a tough time sticking up for yourself, can’t handle people’s anger, or you’re afraid of being “mean,” being independent or incorporated is absolutely not for you.

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Excerpted from: The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker. Copyright 2017 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC.  All rights reserved.  No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission. info@piercewharton.com.

The Vol-en-Told Analyst: Three Things NOT to Do

So, your <checkwriter> has determined you can’t afford an analyst for your technology project.  Instead, they want you to do it. (You? Have they met you?)  After Googling “business analyst,” and “elicit” you realize you’re even more clueless than you thought.  Worse, your PM and development team just asked you what the team should start working on….

I can’t teach you to be me, but I can tell you a few things I definitely would NOT do…..

Don’t Become Immersed in Current State

Resist the temptation to become (another) subject matter expert (SME). Chances are you’ve got lots of people in the weeds.  Ask them about the swamp; do not get in there with them. You’ll learn along the way…

Too often novice analysts (and insecure project managers) focus on mastering (and tirelessly documenting) the current state – as if having a Visio now makes it okay to finally get rid of it!  Business process owners are also guilty of the “let me show you ….” instead of providing an answer to your question. Steer clear!  If not, you’ll find yourself burning week(s) learning and flowing out someone’s job when all you really needed was agreement on a data set for the cloud architect.

Unless current state flows and docs are a specific deliverable in the project’s SOW, don’t waste time documenting system’s past. Focus your efforts on eliciting the information you need from your SMEs to define, build, and document future workflows, future components, future interfaces, the future.

Don’t Be Afraid to Assign Deliverables

One of core responsibilities of the team’s analyst to provide the infrastructure and artifacts needed by the appdev (and devops) team so they can build (and test) software.  That doesn’t mean that the analyst is the only person who has to write stuff down.

Every team has a different division of labor, and each analyst has a different style and approach.  Style notwithstanding, we can all agree that I cannot do a Vulcan mind-meld with the DB architect.  I need a schema and component diagram (regularly updated) regardless of how busy you are. Similarly, business process owners aren’t exempt from writing stuff down, either.  I need a list of the exact data points everyone wants retained.  Another demo of “how I do it now,” isn’t a deliverable.

The beauty of a Waterfall effort is that there are clearly defined inputs and outputs. The Gantt is not forgiving.  It shows everyone in the room if a gate is open/closed, and who/what is keeping that gate from closing.  The beauty (and curse) of Agile is that it’s much more flexible. Things requiring more discussion, bigger decisions, “grooming and refinement” can easily be re-prioritized in favor of backlog items upon which there is violent agreement.  As an analyst, you offer insight and best practice advice, but at the end of the day, deliverables codify key business decisions. I can’t make those for you.

Don’t Forget Whose Side You’re On

Whose side are you on?  The Development Team. Period. Why? Because that’s the team you’re actually a part of, and they’re the people doing the work (for you.)

If you’re new to being an software analyst, you will quickly see that your seat in the development team is to articulate the client/business vision.  That doesn’t mean you’re the client.  Conversely, when you sit in client meetings, your role is to be a relentless advocate for the development team.  But, that doesn’t mean you can make decisions or agreements on their behalf.  Being the “creamy filling in the Oreo,” can be difficult.  Empathy, and helping others to have more of it, is an essential skill.

The reality is that no matter how smart you are and how much you’ve thought about something, you’re going to make a mistake or mis-assumption.  Analyst’s mistakes are built into the code, seen in public – sometimes in really big meetings.  You can’t let your client blame the “stupid developers,” when you know full well your poorly written acceptance criteria was the cause.  If you throw your team under the bus – even once – you will quickly regret your lack of courage.

Final Thoughts

There’s a certain amount of frustration involved in the analyst psyche. You’re usually on a steep learning curve, and time is not endless.  You have to accept ambiguity (sometimes a lot of it) and push forward despite unknowns. Learn to say, “I haven’t gotten there yet,” “That was my mistake,” and “We can do it, but it will take more time and money,” and you’ll be just fine.

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Copyright 2017 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC.  All rights reserved.  No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission. info@piercewharton.com.

Where are my RFP Responses?

In one of my management classes, a group activity was to prepare a Request for Proposal (RFP). The purpose of the RFP was to hire an event company to create and manage a 300-person company picnic. No other specifications were given — kind of like real life.

The teams set to work creating the RFP. Most assembled a list of basic information for the vendor such as a date, number of people, and budget. A few of the groups had specific requests such as a special theme or specific venue. After a half-hour of discussion, the groups were beginning to disband, all except for Detailed Dina’s group. Detailed Dina was the project manager for her team, and she was not going to be so sloppy.

Keeping her group well past the time allotted, she insisted that the RFP include a questionnaire, which asked for references, sample menus, descriptions of other events done, for whom, when, what was the cost vs. the final budget of these events. What type of picnics had the vendor done before? What kinds of themes? For how many? She also asked for credit and banking references, and a list of their subcontractors. Dina assigned each team member a portion of the RFP, and then offered to assemble the final product herself (so it was up to her quality standards). An hour after everyone else left, Dina was satisfied and exceedingly proud of herself. She demonstrated collaborative leadership, and was a team player by taking on the task of assembling the final RFP. Dina was confident her outstanding RFP would result in a superior picnic.

The RFPs were farmed out to the vendor groups. Among the ten RFPs presented, the teams needed to choose five to meet and three to respond.

After all the presentations and discussion were completed, Detailed Dina’s RFP was not selected. Aghast at the slight, Dina demanded to know why no one selected her event. The answer was simple. There were other clients, and her application was too much. Said one team, “I know it’s a game, but it was just so ridiculous….” The instructor tried to mix it up bit. Everyone knew that Detailed Dina has no interested vendors; therefore, whomever bid on her contract was guaranteed to win the business. Wouldn’t that be easier than competing against so many others? Would any team trade creating three proposals for her one?

Lesson #1

First, Detailed Dina made an amateur mistake: She refused to scale. It’s a picnic, not a shuttle launch. Dina was so fixated on her emotional need for data because she felt that more data would help her to secure a quality vendor. Unfortunately, this project wasn’t about data, it was about teamwork and goals. Dina lost sight of the goal, which was to form a relationship with a vendor (which she failed to do), and then manage the relationship (which she was unable to do), for the company’s benefit (which never happened).

This project wasn’t about data; it was about teamwork and goals.

And, while Dina was adamant that she had a far superior RFP, and was friendly and collaborative with her team, no one could argue that if this were real life, her leadership was a failure. Bottom line: They needed a team to do this event, and she was unable to assemble a team.

Lesson #2

This story is also illustrates the shift in the American labor market. You’re hiring a <jobtitle> to do <somethingforyou>, you’re not marrying the guy! Because Dina was in a position to choose and pay the vendor, her attitude was one of entitlement. They needed to “prove” themselves to her.

Your hubris is counter-productive to building a team

And, while we all seek qualified vendors (and it’s natural to feel a little entitled when you’re writing the checks), remember that you’re not the person actually doing the work. If you’re an employer, your attitude needs to be one of partnership, not entitlement. You’re hiring someone because you CANNOT do the work yourself. Your hubris is counter-productive to building a team.

The Conclusion

Dina was surprised by the silence that followed the easy offer of her business.

Dina immediately offered explanations of the rationale behind the formulation of her RFP. The teams quietly discussed the trade-offs of a relationship with Detailed Dina. With fewer clients it could be less work – initially – but since this was a “fixed-price” bid, what was the risk that Detailed Dina would be a difficult client who needed lots of attention, extras or changes? How would that effect the time they spent on this class project?

I think we all know what happened here.

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Excerpted from: The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker. Copyright 2017 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC.  All rights reserved.  No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission. info@piercewharton.com.

How Perfectionistss Ruin Quaity

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In the early days of software (when every application came with manual), I took a class for technical writers.  Our first homework assignment was to write directions for how to make tea.  Several of my classmates had questions such as what kind of tea? Was it in a bag or loose?  The instructor said he would provide no other details except for the original task: Write directions for how to make tea.

When class re-assembled the following week, the instructor asked the students to turn in their homework.  He shuffled through the responses and chose several to present to the class. Before presenting, he requested the class hold all comments and questions until after all the submissions were reviewed.  Then, he placed the first page of Paul Perfectionist’s directions on the projector. “That’s mine!” You could see him visibly puff up. Because his directions were first up, they were likely the standard.

Paul had put together an exhaustive set of detailed directions. No detail was too small, no action overlooked, no exception left out.  Paul wrote step-by-step how to unwrap the box of tea, what size pot to select for boiling water, how to turn on the faucet, how to put water into the pot, how to turn on the stove (or light a stove, if necessary), how to set a timer for boiling water.  He created a branch for the benefits of a tea kettle verses a pot, how to choose a cup, how to lay the tea bag in the cup.  He had an alternate scenario for loose tea, including explanations of tea balls, strainers, and cozies…a couple shots of images for tea…all-in-all, there were more than five pages of directions for making tea.

The instructor continued with the next set of directions, which was also lengthy, but not nearly as exhaustive as Paul’s.  The instructor slowly continued on replacing page-after-page of instructions offering no comment on any of the efforts.

I’ve spent a lifetime as a teacher and corporate writer; I knew where this was going.  I sat back and began to look around the room. I could see some of the students’ body language had already changed. Shoulders hunched, furrowed brows — they looked confused, worse ashamed.  Had they misunderstood the assignment?  Was this more complicated than they originally thought?  Self-doubt descended like a fog.

As the presentation continued, the directions became significantly briefer.  One student (who had asked about loose or bag), wrote “One bag = 2 Tbls,” which I recall thinking was exceedingly clever copy for tea packaging. I remember Paul rolled his eyes when I complimented the writer on the usefulness of that line, “That doesn’t even tell you how to make tea!” he scoffed.  The last submission displayed was, “Add hot water. Enjoy.”

The projector went off. The lights went on.  Paul was beaming with pride.  “So,” the instructor began, “Which of these directions do you think is the best?”

“The last one,” I said quickly and with conviction.

“I agree,” the instructor responded.

Now, if you thought that Paul had a “ah-hah!” moment, you have little experience with the detail-obsessed, perfectionist disorder.  On the contrary, Paul was PISSED OFF!  Without a second of reflection, he launched into a full-scale attack on his classmates and the instructor.  The others didn’t understand the complexity of tea, and that’s why he detailed out every approach to it. These brief responses indicated his colleagues were lazy and didn’t want to do the homework.  It’s clear they took a short-cut in the assignment, which is why they wrote so little. Paul assured everyone that he had spent a lot of time working on this, and making tea was much, much, more complicated than we really knew.  No one had even thought to include images!  What if someone didn’t know what a teabag looked like!

My personal impatience with the narcissism of perfectionists notwithstanding, I gleefully threw coal in his furnace and offered that I wrote no directions at all; rather, I documented an audience assumption that tea – a staple of every kitchen in every culture – is something the audience or purchaser would already know how to make.  It’s not an enchilada.

Other real-world rejections of Paul’s work quickly followed: Tea does not come with directions now, why would we need them in the future?  No tea company would ever create collateral or change packaging to accommodate five pages of directions. No one buying tea would ever read a five-page insert if they did. Another pointed out that Paul’s directions (literally) included a section on how to boil water! Knowing how to boil water was the same reason light bulbs didn’t come with directions. Ha-ha. The class chuckled, the fog of self-doubt lifted, and there was a sigh of relief from those who had not crafted lengthy directions. Paul, however, was not amused.  He insisted that it was possible some men could not know how to boil water or turn on a stove (although most women were likely to know this, he conceded). Then, finally after all his other defenses were exhausted, Paul played the “safety” card (aka: the Hail Mary of all corporate disagreements), and strongly asserted that without directions someone might burn themselves or ingest the tea bag, which could result in a law suit…

The Lesson

Paul was a student in a class of colleagues, so the ability to critique his work is assumed.  That is rarely the case in real-life. Imagine if Paul Perfectionist were a manager, lead or (heaven forbid) stakeholder?  Given Paul’s predilection toward perfectionism, if he were someone’s boss do you think he would be open to a less-detailed approach or would he just see that as sloppy?  What are the chances that a peer – never mind subordinate – could call Paul out on his emotional need for detail?  Even if some courageous person did tell Paul he was being ridiculous, do you think the rest of the group would jump in and support their colleague’s “sloppy approach” compared to Paul’s exhaustive completeness?  Lastly, with so much ego and emotion displayed by Paul, even if the group felt that Paul’s directions were expensive or might result in a negative outcome, how likely is it that they would coalesce to fight actively against him?  Or do think it’s more likely the group would just “deal” with Paul because they have families to support and just don’t have the energy to argue with him anymore….?

Paul and Polly Perfectionists exist in every business. What all these perfect people have in common is the same narcissistic misconception that they – alone – can assure quality.  We euphemistically call them “bottlenecks” or say they need “special hand-holding.”  In private, we call them high-maintenance PITAs, and tell colleagues to circumvent them because do nothing but cause spin and churn.

Perfectionists are the most destructive of leaders and teammates because they talk non-stop about quality, but they don’t listen to quality. Quality is not a person. Quality is not a checklist. Quality is a process.  A quality processes requires a team, and the perfectionists of the world never have a good one because teams require honesty, communication, and trust.  Perfectionists don’t understand that state of being.  Their lives are filled with fear, suspicion, and distrust.  It haunts them at work; it strains their personal relationships. A Paul Perfectionist may run a team, but he rarely considers himself a part of that team because – qualitatively – he is sure he is above the others and perfectionism is not a flaw.

Excellence is a value; Perfectionism is an insecurity.

Everyone should take pride in his/her work, everyone should have input, but when I see over-engineered and voluminous solutions, I don’t think, “Ahh, so smart!” Rather, I corner my teammate(s) 1:1 and ask questions.  Inevitably, I’ll hear “Yeah, we had to do <whatever> because <controlfreakperfectionist> is a PITA, which is why we’re <late/over budget/short staffed>. Avoid them if you can….”

Over the course of my career, I have been amazed at the number of high-priced consultants and internal project teams who churn away days and weeks of expensive time adding linguistic dandruff to presentations, plans and proposals whose only goal is to sooth the emotions and ego of someone who is sure they’re adding quality.  CapEx budgets become bloated by stakeholder reviews and timelines are delayed all because no one going to jeopardize the financial stability of their family by telling Paul Perfectionist that we don’t need five pages of directions on how to make tea.

The Conclusion

The instructor cornered Paul during break and tried to talk him down, which was not easy because perfectionists are quite sure that you aren’t smart enough to see the world as clearly as they, and who are you to criticize their drive for perfection anyway?

The instructor explained to Paul the purpose of the class (and education, in general) was to challenge pre-conceived notions. Audience is the most important consideration in any communication, and Paul did not consider his when writing his directions.  Although Paul reluctantly agreed that perhaps boiling water was a bit much, he would not relent on the other stuff.  Besides, even if fewer directions were acceptable, more paperwork and detail is always better. I mean, this is tea, sure, but in real-life, in business, there would never be a time where more documentation or direction would be worse, right?

The instructor asked Paul to keep an open mind, and then politely turned to another student who had been patiently waiting.

Paul never came back to class.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Excerpted from: The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker. Copyright 2017 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC.  All rights reserved.  No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission. info@piercewharton.com; Follow on Twitter and Facebook @TheTempJob

Grits


Dear Grits:

I admit that I misjudged you. I always thought Farina was better, but that was my cultural bias. Now that we’ve spent more time together, I realize you’re so easy and versatile not to mention delicious, and at 145 calories per cup I can eat you without fear of being caught by Oatmeal or Quinoa. ..and, let’s face it, no one likes Oatmeal…always on the way to the gym, so smug and superior…Quinoa isn’t much better, ruining salads everywhere, so Grits, it you and me baby! I’m so glad we met !!

PS:  Don’t tell anyone about the sugar and syrup!  That’s our little secret 😉

 

Copyright 2018 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission. info@piercewharton.com.

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