I recently stumbled across a blog called Anonymous Lawyer that is supposed to be the fictional blog of a lawyer in a large law firm. Good reading. But one of his/her posts in particular hit very close to home. How many times have you been told by your company, or by a client, that you should be more of a people person. That you should have a long term vision, and be able to see problems coming that no one else can see, so you can fix them before they happen?
I have, and I’ve always thought it a bunch of bull hockey. Companies don’t want you to do anything other than make more money for them, and not cause a stir. They should just tell you that in the interview. They do want you to solve their magical problem before it blows up, but they don’t want you to make a big deal about the ones that aren’t going to blow up, because those aren’t really problems. This snippet couldn’t have said this better:
Today’s moron told us they fired their last firm because there were issues “they could have spotted in advance had they paid more attention, but instead they waited until they were real problems, and it ended up costing millions more to solve them.” Well, sure, in a fantasy world, we’d solve problems before they ever became problems. But that’s the client’s fantasy, not ours. Do you think the firm they fired is upset because the jobs cost millions more of the client’s money? No way. Economically, where’s our incentive to find the problems early anyway? You’re willing to pay more when you’re being sued then 6 months before when you “might” be sued, “if” the customers ever find out. At that point you don’t want us telling you there’s a problem. You’re not willing to pay us the money it would take to fix it anyway. It’s not a problem yet. You just want to ignore it. So stop lying and telling us you want us to find problems early. You don’t. You want us to find the one that’s going to erupt into a lawsuit, but the nine that won’t, you don’t want us touching. And we’re no better at fortune-telling than you. – Anonymous Lawyer
Exactly. Solve the issues that are going to be problems before they become problems but don’t bring up the other issues that aren’t going to be problems becuase we don’t want to hear about those now. Maybe that’s why I liked the years with the fire department as much as I did. There was no question what the people wanted you to solve when they called you. Usually if there were “fires to put out”, it was literal, and very obvious what was on fire, and what the dangers were of it continuing to burn. Of if someone had “hit a wall”, they weren’t just stuck in their work, they were very often trapped in their car, which we had to carefully pry away.
(For those interested: I found the above site in the Time magazine 50 Coolest Websites which I’m glad to have stumbled across)