Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Minimizing Cross-Divisional Inefficiencies Across Multi-Functional Matrix Reporting Systems

That's how people talk at my work. Makes me want to leap out my 32nd floor window.

I thought I'd do a post about work today (mostly because we are still waiting for our next cycle to start, and my wife is in a good mood, which leaves me zilch to write about - and I love the sound of my own typing, just like every other blogger).

Anyway, I work in institutional investment management - private equity, specifically. I'm actually fairly senior (alot of you are thinking back on my 'passed out on the couch with scotch' post and wondering "how can that be?"). Well, it can be. And it is.

Like most businesses, this business is very complicated. Unlike many other businesses, it is populated by people who are not passionate about the work per se, but are rather passionate about making gobs of cash. Moolah. Jack. Do re mi. You dig? That does not apply to me, however. Don't get me wrong, I love money...but there are things I love about this business. Working with entrepreneurs, and helping to build businesses...it's actually quite a bit of fun, and very interesting. However, the fact that I am driven less by financial gain than by intellectual gain has a negative impact on my w-2 at year end, I assure you. But I do get to associate myself with VERY smart people. I'm talking PhDs, former intelligence officers, investment gurus, etc.

But that's the just the thing. Some of these people are so smart, that they refuse to entertain the idea that there is something about this business that they do not understand. Everyone is desperately afraid of looking stupid. But the truth of the matter is, everyone really only gets about 10% of this business. Seriously. Thing is, if you have 10 people in a room, everyone understands a different 10% than everyone else. You might think "perfect, there is knowledge of 100% of the industry in that room". Not how it works. Everyone in the room is desperately trying to convince other people that they understand the 90% that the other person does not understand. And since that other person doesn't get that 90%, how can they refute the other guy, who claims to understand?

Also, people spend 99% of every meeting trying to steer the conversation back to that 10% portion of the business that they themselves understand, regardless of whether it is relevant to the agenda of the meeting.

Guess what get accomplished while all this tomfoolery goes on?

You guessed it....NOTHING.

And the sad reality is that the people who climb to the top, and who get to run the entire organization, are not the smartest people. They are simply the ones who did the best job of either 1) convincing the other 9 people in the room that they understood the 90% of the business that those others did not understand, or 2) convincing all 10 people that understanding NONE of the business is actually the way to go.

Have a nice Tuesday.


OHN said...

You made me laugh out loud! Those are exactly the reasons I started my own company...the only person I have to fool is myself and since I am extremely skilled in bullshit, I believe myself every time and have convinced myself that I am brilliant :)

One Mother's Journey said...

OHN took the words right out of my mouth...

THAT is exactly the reason I went into business for myself. No one else to blame when something goes wrong and all the credit when something goes right.

In theory that sounds good... In reality I got a lot more done before I discovered blogging.

serenity said...

Gotta love business, huh? I love my job because of the intellectual stimulation and that I get to work with unbelievably smart people. It is certainly not for the paycheck.

Back when I was in marketing I used to host a weekly "wank word bingo" game during our staff meeting. Have everyone in the group put $1 in the pot, pass out cards with the usual company wank words (we loved "footprint" and a whole bunch of others which I can't rememer right now), and cross them off as the meeting goes on.

The first one to use the week's catch phrase (one week I had to say "9 out of 10 dentists prefer Crest") in a sentence wins the pot.

Was a good way to enjoy our staff meetings at the very least. :)

Alli said...

First of all, the title was so complicated I wanted to jump out of my own second floor window. My neighbor is out watering his grass, though (first time all year) and I didn't want to draw attention.

Second of all, anyone who used the word "tomfoolery" is a fave of mine. :)

Your blog is so fun to read!

spark said...

LOL! Very funny!!! I work with people who aren't very smart and don't care a lot about money. (So are you similar to a VC?)

I'm trying to figure out how the 90% of you all can type in the word verification - I must have adult-onset dsylexia... oh wait! they finally gave me a remedial word...

soralis said...

And I thought the people who climbed to the top where the ones that kept getting promoted cause everyone was trying to get rid of them! LOL!

Take care

theoneliner said...


Serenity...how did i KNOW you would play that game.

I think that has to do with insecurity. Most people are loathe to admit that they don't know everything...or that they are not the smartest person in the room.

People should be like dogs...dogs don't care who's at the top...they just want to know where they are so that they can do what they need to.

Maybe if we all started humping each other's legs in the board room that'd help? Or no?

Katie said...

I think I'm on a button kick. I suggested that someone else make a "no advice" button--you know, the word ADVICE in one of those red circles with a slash through it-- to wear to discourage unsolicited advice.

I see another button campaign here. Something along the lines of "Do you know your 10%?" or "Ask me about my 10%" or merely "10%". When people ask you what it means, do share your wisdom.

candy said...

this post reminded me of this song by todd snider: