Recently, I was discussing with my friends the famous talk of Ken Robinson on the TED talks regarding revolution in education and what we take as granted. I suddenly recalled that I had a whole inner fight with myself when I was studying my MBA back in 2000. Nearly all of the frameworks that I was learning was somehow one sided and linear for me. I even thought that many messages would be close to my common senses if I could turn them upside down. Am I the only one who thinks so? I decided to write about these “mirrored” frameworks, which are so much more straightforward for me, and ask you to express your standpoint.
Let’s take some basic frameworks from different fields of management, Finance, Marketing, Operations Management, and HR and try to look them as if we haven’t heard anything about management theory.
NPV: Probably the most shocking idea for me 🙂 Basically it means that money today is not the same as money tomorrow. So, time has a value, and if you invest your money in a business (let’s say bank deposit) you’d gain some interest. Every other investment opportunity you’d consider comparing that bank deposit, and thus assess project profitability.
Of course the statement above it trivial, mathematically correct and naively perfect. In fact time is not only a value, but it becomes a constraint if you assess everything around using NPV. You are indirectly pressed to invest, and invest in a short term deals and not in long term great deeds. I believe that NPV philosophy indirectly makes people a bit shorter minded (have seen such “educated” managers, hypnotized with NPV).
You may say, “but it’s because the people are short minded, nothing wrong with NPV itself”. Of course it is right. NPV is a formula which is mathematically correct. All I am saying is that NPV is measurable and people use it with show off face and while all the unmeasurable things remains out of any formula – NPV turns into hypnosis.
Here is a mirrored statement of this, which I believe is in fact, how all the great leaders and companies think: “Time makes things mature. You won’t be able to run far if you always run fast. Slow down; concentrate on process, quality, long term vision rather than the results, economy of scale or short term benefits”. You risk loosing the very basic strategic value by being tempted with quick and easy money. NPV is a trap for lames. It includes no strategy, no risk factors and hypnotizes you to be short term oriented”.
I had an interesting case with one of my student who declared one day to me that he wants to quit the MBA. I said why? You are doing great! And he replied – no, it’s not because of the scores or disability, it’s because I am changing, and changing in bad direction. So I asked more in details, what exactly was unacceptable for him, and he said: “even the idea of NPV, I can learn and pass the exam, but if I really accept it, I need to reject all my values that I am carrying from childhood”.
Marketing and black magic are the same things as per their definition and this definition is: “make others to want, what you want them to want”.
In today’s World sales only, is not a big issue. You need sustainable sales! You need customer relationship management. You need your clients to be your followers and you to stay as Guru. Very few thinks that for this, you have to put a value. Marketing has no understanding what is a value or quality. And it starts from business schools. Students choose marketing when they understand that they can not learn operation’s management, statistics, finance, quality and anything scientific, which simply requires skills a bit more than to hold a calculator. In other words their personal belief is “High Price for Low Value”.
So, what it is – selling more without providing more values? Here is my favorite example of modern marketing. In France, back in 2000, we used to go to McDonald’s for a break. It was a good solution for us, students, cheap and energy sufficient enough. And the deal for students was just paradise: additional big Mac, and you could return the check next time, then you could get extra ice cream. So, I spoke out and said – It’s like a paradise. And my German friend said, “Andrew, you are really from Georgia, you can not understand that marketing trick here”. I said, hmmmmm… which trick? Actually, yea, what does McDonalds’ gain from that free big Mac they give me? And the answer was so eye opening for me, that I said, Yea, I am really from Georgia 🙂 So, the answer was that McDonalds wanted my stomach to get used to two big Macs. You know one is kind of always slightly less than your appetite. And they give it for free for some time, and after that you will demand double Big Mac may be for all of your life. What they did, is to communicate directly to your stomach, and to your brain, cause the stomach was the decision maker there.
…and do not tell me that the same is not applied to the soap opera movies, music, and even politics.
So, here is my mirrored MBA Marketing message for you: Modern social media will destroy such trick, and if you want to survive, follow the trend and be social, never lie, be completely transparent, never scale your service, treat customers as humans, as friends. Understand them inside out. Today every good and service became commodity. You can copy almost anything except experiencing a human factor. And that is the greatest attractor and can become a great strategic weapon through positioning yourself in niche markets. Re-write every standard business process and make it human centric and you will be overwhelmed by attention and then just monetize that. For more of this point please listen this presentation of Garry Vaynerchuk.
I want to focus on two statements here. One is economy of scale and another is measure to control.
When humanity understood the idea of the economy of scale – the Earth started circulating faster. Humanity achieved magnificent goals by boosting economies, and it was not a smooth transition. It pressed everybody to change the inner values and to adopt this idea.
Yes, you need to change your inner values to adopt to the economy of scale, in as much as market economy. If your values were humanism, openness, depth, spirituality, sensitivity, tolerance and etc – big chance that your new label would be – Looser! I am from Georgia and I’ve seen enough “hungry intellectuals”, who still struggle with their inner beliefs, and more than enough gangsters, who later became successful businessmen, and who did that transition just in one day, cause they were facing no believe transition, it was just a common sense for them.
So, my point is that economy of scale mentality, naturally leads to producing more, less quality, short term orientation, less human and/or deep understanding of the essence of the problems. No need to understand things from inside. If you have problem – just change the source. No matter if that’s an equipment or an employee. No need to grow people around. Just only get them, buy them, recruit them. Company is not a please for learning. One must be already educated, and so on…
And now, ask yourself how productive you are in the company you work? How much do you love the job you do on a scale from 0 to 100. I found that many people carry inside different values and believes then the company, which they are in, carries. We may spend more time in our companies then at home, and such work may become like being in a marriage with somebody you hate.
I use to ask my friends, what would be the ideal condition to work for you, and how much would you work in such “ideal” conditions. Nearly always the answer is: ideal condition is when I do what I love, when I see the results and it is appreciated, and when I feel that I do a part of the great thing. As of how much they would work – can be 24 hours, because, as they said “when you rest you still think of something you love”.
Now, another issue: if you can not measure, you can not manage. Ones, Edward Deming answered, if you can measure – it’s too late!
Most of the managerial issues are nearly immeasurable. Like the happiness and passion of employees, desire to create new things, out-compete competitors. Even education is not measured. Mistakes learned are not measured. And even if you measure standard deviation of the errors and its threshold, it’s irrelevant to problem solving, because you measure results, but still the real cause is not identified and not measured.
The principle of quality management is to control in the beginning of the system, not in the end. And the system starts from people. And if you are clever enough you would understand that even people are results of their beliefs, and that is where you have to get in order to hold guarantees for your quality. You need to enter in the souls of your customers, employees, stakeholders and bring the medicine and the Sun light there. Ones you do that, then you’d make the leaning of the processes and you’d feel so much feedback from your employees that there will be no need to measure your revenues – it will be just countless.
Another thing that drove me crazy was idea of “corporate culture”. It was kind of fashion to mention it frequently. I asked my teachers: what is the rationale behind, and the answer was – “it is easier to adjust everybody’s culture to an artificial, third party culture, rather to make people to understand each other from inside”. And I said – I am not that stupid! I was born to understand any culture in the World. It makes me rich, open minded, more human, tolerant and a World citizen. Why should I worship the plastic, artificial values, invented by my boss?
Do you think that any conflict in this universe was ever resolved with that strategy? May be postponed, but never solved. And if a model is not good enough for me, how can it be good for my family, or country? Do you really believe that conflicts in family can be solved by artificially accepting standpoint which neither side feels natural with it? Do you think countries can live together only due to whatever ideology? For how long?
And the biggest lie of MBA frameworks is in Strategy. The framework simply says: “if you failed to plan, you plan to fail”. My answer would be closer to the Georgian proverb – “Man was planning and God was laughing”.
Good example about how the great leaders really think about is Steve Jobs speech at Stanford Graduation. For long run strategy – do not plan, just create the dots, put yourself in details, learn, try, do. Idea is in “Connecting dots”, and one day you will connect all dots, no matter how diverse or useless they seemed before.
My mirrored statement would sound as follows: whatever you do in your life, should be a vehicle to reach the perfection, Truth, God, whatever you name. You need create your “element“, your small World which you will make every day better and better, where you grow along with your creation. If your goal does not include your inner development it will be ruined sooner or later. Your corporate goal should be a part of your personal Goal. Not the goals of your Ego, but your Higher, True Self, which lies inside you and sleeps until you re-discover it and allow it to express itself, which will become as true Myself.
Finding “God inside me”, and becoming that perfection is the ultimate goal of existence. No matter how you call it, no matter what your beliefs are – we all want to be better, not only to have more, but also to be better, and instead of “maximization of shareholders Equity, or profit”, declare one day that your goal is to become truly better – and you will out compete all the copy/paste business models around. The only managerial problem remains is to change the DNA of others around you.
But here is the trick with that: In Heaven, even though the angels are most sensitive that no lower being can enter in Heaven, has no doors. Spiritually blind beings can see no thing around and thus can not steal anything. Same applies to business. If your business is your yoga, your self-improvement vehicle, your mantra, your pray, your inner World with its ups and downs – just be open and sleep well, cause even if they your products, nobody can copy the business model. The blinds will look, but see no thing in it.
Invest in your higher self and make it as a part of the business model. That is my mirrored Strategy which I strongly encourage you to follow.
As of the MBA frameworks – know it, examine it, test it, feel to which direction it changes you and the whole society, how it sculpts the “tyranny of common sense”, and then consciously decide to use it or not! MBA is good for those who is in love with their Ego, but for Heaven – it’s just outdated!