Wed. May 27th, 2020

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The Key To Failure Is Trying To Please Everybody

6 min read

Everyone talks about success. How to get there, how to achieve it, how to layout the path to success. But very few, if any, talk about failure and how you can get there. Failure is a necessary focal point that most people ignore because they think if they focus on success then failure won’t happen. Wrong. Placing too much focus on success and the positivity, warm fuzzy approach to most things you can actually set yourself directly on the path to failure and won’t even realize it.

I came across a quote that is so simple yet so powerful and true. In fact I can apply this quote to prior business projects and initiatives that have failed miserably or dragged on far longer than they should because of this quote. Here it is –

The Key To Failure Is Trying To Please Everybody.

When Bill Cosby made this statement he was referring to Fatherhood, but it’s applicable in any close group of passionate people, such as a business team. When there is disorder and lack of leadership everyone thinks they have a say and control on a direction. When that happens you try to satisfy them all, some of which are in contradiction of each other, and you will soon wonder why you are over budget, missed your delivery dates and everyone is now pissed off at each other. The reason is you tried to make everyone happy instead of focusing on making the business happy.

When it comes to an enterprise level project or any large project for that matter, an individual’s personal preference is zero priority. Why? Because in this day of corporate life most people’s shelf lives in a company is 3 to 5 years, max. So when they leave, so do their personal preferences. What remains is what is often overlooked, the business’ preferences for their services and customers.

Stakeholders, Owners, Sponsors, Informers, Managers, Users, Testers, Reviewers, Approvers all fall within a properly defined RACI model, but then why do they all think they have a power in saying what goes in and what gets out? The answer is there is a growing problem in the corporate world, and I have personally seen this and experienced it in companies with 250,000 employees to 1,000 employees. I have also seen where this absolutely doesn’t happen in the same range. So company size is not a cause of this path to failure, so why does it happen?

This perpetuates due to the lack of leadership and support of proper decisions. This creates an environment where all opinions become decisions and then directions instead of one decision, one direction. The need to please everybody. Make that grumpy VP happy, make that manager happy, make that developer happy, don’t disagree or have any contradictions. Be softer and accept instead of reject.

In the locations where this doesn’t happen is where progress is made directly toward decision. Once the decision has been made the debate ends. Not everyone will like the decision, not everyone will get what they ‘want’, there will be change and adoption that will have to happen which will inconvenience you. But you know what, the business succeeds.

You could have the most inefficient, paper filled, audit nightmare process for a business function that has been in place for years. But if you go into an environment to try and change that to a slick, easy, fast, secure, and productive process and you try to please everyone, you will fail. Status quo is what they are used to and without leadership telling them how it will be they will protect their routine to the death. It works for them. They can’t change not because they can’t but because they have been given the power to think they don’t have to.

Eventually they will throw out the big argument, that is very hard to argue back, is there will be too much “training” and too much change to people to handle to. “Those managers will never get it right.” “They won’t like that change.” “This is different from what they are used to.” “The VP won’t like this.”

Training? You are trying to explain to me that highly educated, well paid, skilled, intelligent individuals can’t follow a sheet of paper that has it all laid out Steps A to Z? I have heard it often and I personally see that statement as demeaning and insulting if the employees being referred to actually heard their leadership talk about their capabilities in such a way. How would you like it if your managers said you were too stupid to learn something new and get it right?

How about the flip side to that comment? Instead of the managers demeaning the employees perhaps it’s the managers that are incapable of managing their teams to follow something new and it’s easier to put the obstacle on those not in the room or part of the decision? Either way this is the most common and usually the first happiness obstacle that comes in that tries to be met. You can’t change without some level of disruption to the norm. Impossible. Try to meet that demand and you fail.

The Key To Failure Is Trying To Please Everybody.

When a manager and business goes to hire someone for that position they look for and expect this –

However, after they are on the payroll and working, if you try to change the routine they suddenly become this –

The path to least resistance, whatever is the easiest (that’s allowed), in a business is always the most insecure, inefficient, and potentially dangerous practice that will eventually bite the business in the butt. Ironically the individuals aren’t punished for lack of audibility, security holes, employee misconduct, or inability to be compliant. The business is punished, yet the improvements to fix the business gaps are held up by individuals’ resistance to be inconvenienced to a change to make the business stronger.

You cannot please everyone. Everyone can come to the table, express their opinions, document their reasons, collaborate on the proposed direction but once the decision to go forward has been made that should be the end of debate and proceed. When it comes to an enterprise business process, policy, procedure the most successful and happiest companies are where ones the the business needs takes priority not what some manager or VP prefers to color the Word doc tables or wanting a spreadsheet over a PDF report. Set the direction, plan, prepare, execute then move on.

The worst case in this is when the teams shelf a project or initiative and wait out an individual’s tenure. Then when they leave then put them in place. I have seen that as well which goes back to my original statement, just because you have a seat at the table doesn’t mean you are in any position of leadership to provide more than your opinion and expertise toward the decision.

Tomorrow a person could be gone but the business will still need.

End of Line.
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