Friday, October 27, 2006

The Grim Reaper is Me

In management parlance, I am what’s known as a change agent. I go into organisations that are perhaps a little (sometimes a lot) broken. I mend, cajole, encourage, mould and bend the people and processes into something different. I’ve done it quite a bit now over the years, it’s a market niche I fill. Thankfully, by objective measures, I succeed. Unprofitable divisions become profitable, complaining clients become uncomplaining (I’ve never met a happy client).

Its never easy, and never fast. I’m often dealing with emotion as much as I’m dealing with logic. What I do means change, and change is not always comfortable. Change is also that. Some, actually most, people embrace it or at least don’t fight it. Some do.

Usually about half of the management teams I inherit come with me through to the other side. The other half don’t. They either leave of their own volition, or sometimes they don’t. Its perhaps the most uncomfortable part of my job, this removal of people from their employment. Yet its necessary. A job is not a right. You either perform within the limits set you, or you don’t. If you don’t, your job can not be secure. Even if you do, your job can not be secure. Capitalism means competition. In competition there are winners and losers. Its rough, but it is a mirror of life.

Yesterday I had to do one of those uncomfortable acts. You’d think frequency of experience would make an act easier to do. In this case, it doesn’t. You’re having to land a very hard message. Often you’re having to say clearly that this is my choice, my belief. That the other person has no say in what happens from here. It is an act of power, and it is my personal belief that power should not be comfortable.

I found this one particularly hard. There’s no question the man in question deserved a change. He was obstructive, needlessly protective, and I’d found in many cases had deliberately not done as asked, or had acted against vital directives.

Yet it was still hard. He is 62, and arguably if he had been better managed in the past (pre me I might add), he may have changed his behaviour. With time he still could have, but the thing about change is time is something you don’t have. Leaving an obstructive person in situ sends its own messages.

So I acted, and now a man is without his job. He’ll be well compensated (amazingly well compensated), but I know he will still find it hard. There are times when I’ve done this when I’ve been certain the person would go out and succeed elsewhere. In this case I’m not so sure. Not so much because of his age, though that won’t help, but because of his attitude. That is sad, and makes me feel guilty, but it was still the right thing to do.


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