There are more gyms, more personal trainers, more diets and more health foods than ever before and yet in the course of human history we are fatter by far than ever before. While we are therefore overwhelmingly, cheerfully and passionately provided with every possible solution to lose weight, to be fitter and healthier, self-evidently our issue is not the supply of solutions.
The myth of the health and fitness industries is that they have the solution to fix our fatness problem. Clearly they do not. The world is fatter, slower and heavier in part because they do not have the solution to help us, the fat ones, to change.
I think there is a parallel with solutions intended to make us more efficient at work. While we are overwhelmingly, cheerfully and passionately inundated with solutions for every conceivable efficiency problem, these solutions may not work for us either.
Before I say more I want to frame my comments explicitly to avoid any misconception. I am not bashing New Law or tech providers. I have a huge respect for anyone who is trying to make the world a better place and no-one, especially me, is denying the place tech and innovation may play.
In fact I am not bashing anything, but I am saying that the solutions are not solving the problem; because the problem is not whether something can be done faster, better or more efficiently (it can be and often should be). The problem is whether we, the inefficient ones, want to change the things we have not addressed for years; and the solution to that problem is not on sale, because that has to be a self-help solution.
The efficiency myth is that we will be more efficient with more tech, more process and more lovely “dashboards”, but my view is that this is the equivalent of unused gym membership; first we must focus on inefficient behaviours.
Why do we routinely attend poorly managed meetings that add too little value?
Why do we routinely put up with low level dysfunctional/disruptive behaviour from some colleagues, because “they are good technical lawyers”?
Why do we routinely accept some colleagues in the business will not do their jobs properly because it is easier to do things ourselves?
Why do we forgive people not turning up to training events, because everyone is very busy?
And why do we routinely fail to invest enough time to understand how tech can help us specifically by failing to properly identify the nature of our real need?
If any of this is part of your world why do we think any technology inspired efficiency innovation is going to make things better? If we cannot improve things that we can influence directly with no additional resource and no budget simply by saying something out loud to a colleague; what makes us think that anything will change because we now have a “dashboard” of coloured pie-charts to look at as well?
Right here, right now, we have to stop hiding behind what we could do with one more person or a little more infrastructure and start to change our attitude to what we see, hear and feel every day. The efficiency myth is not that tech solutions don’t work; it is that we are not yet good enough at addressing management and leadership problems that hurt us more than we want to admit.
I know it sounds trite to say that we just have to be better at leadership. I am not diminishing how hard this is to change. If the problem has existed for years it is not solved in moments. I am not pretending this is easy. It is fundamentally difficult, always needs more effort than we would like to admit and I am hugely sympathetic with anyone grappling with what to do, but if we want it to be different we must at least be honest. If we cannot face the real problem, then our tech/innovation solutions are doomed and that is a shame for everyone including brilliant tech and innovation providers too.
We make a difference by knowing what we are trying to solve; we achieve so much more when we accept we must change as well, and we deliver on our potential when we seek help for the problems we have, not the fashions we want to follow.
Take care. Paul