Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The SMTP Method

Silly Bee
Originally uploaded by Marinshe

"We have a strategic plan. It's called doing things." ~ Herb Kelleher former CEO of Southwest Airlines

So you're faced with an emergency or something that needs fixed now. What can you do?

Shuffle this.
Move that.
Talk change.
Proclaim success.

Wash, rinse, and repeat.

I just made that acronym up. I know you're proud. I think it fits exactly what we're going to talk about though. It doesn't spell anything significant, nor does it really inspire you to get much done. Perfect!

Government is a great example of this. When an emergency (real or not) arises, government almost always employs the SMTP method. They shuffle this. They move that. They talk about change and how the emergency will never happen again. Then they proclaim success. The end results rarely matter. After all, it is more often about perception and saying the right things than about action and measurable results.

When businesses begin to employ the SMTP method they're usually using words like strategic plan, benchmark, and other favorite magical words that make it sound like you're going to do something.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against strategically planning for the future. In fact I would encourage it. What I'm against is all the effort put into the perfect plan and then very little effort put forth on actual results. It's like having meetings to have meetings. Sure, meetings have their place, but if you're meeting to listen to one another talk nothing will ever get done.

Far too many businesses are employing the SMTP method. A change is needed. An emergency has come up. So what's the reaction by far too many businesses? Shuffle this. Move that. Talk change. Proclaim success. It becomes all about maintaining a perception.

The real problem with the SMTP method is nothing ever really gets done. No matter how much you proclaim success. It's like taking a box of perfectly good crayons and shaking them up. You didn't revolutionize anything or make any real changes. You just shuffled the crayons up in the box.

When you react to an emergency with the SMTP method you don't fix the problem. Instead of fixing anything, SMTP typically compounds the problem or pushes it off until later. It's perception over results.

The Take Away
The best leaders will never employ the SMTP method. They won't be prone to the panic that is necessary for reactionary management.
The best leaders will identify a problem, find a solution, and then follow through on that solution until there is no problem. There will be no need to employ the SMTP method when you have a leader that is focused on fixing the problem, instead of maintaining a perception.


Chris McDaniel said...

SMTP = Simple Mail Transfer Protocol aka, how you get email. Thought you were going geek on me there for a sec. Nice post, BTW!

Andrew Weaver said...

Haha... nothing like baiting and switching geeks. ;-)

Thanks for the props, man.