Friday, November 27, 2009

The Knee Jerk Improviser

Sometimes managers need to be reactive. Sometimes they need to be nimble. The Knee Jerk Improviser, with the emphasis on the Jerk, is able to react on the spur of the moment and totally commit to any plan that passes through their brain. The beauty of this approach is that the strategy can be set in a fluid way which only the Improviser can control because it changes so rapidly that nobody else can keep track of it. On top of that, once committed to a bizarre strand of their own imagination, there is no opposing them.

Blocking Opposition
Any opposition to the plans of the Knee Jerk Improviser can be shot down as unreasonable as the opposer cannot possibly have a full and frank opposition to a plan that they don't understand. When opposing a plan of the Improviser, the Improviser is able to add details to their plan, on the fly, that the opposer is unable to have a reasonable argument against, since they have only just heard of them. The plan can be morphed into something which the opposer thinks they partly agree with, while still maintaining the substantive of the Knee Jerk Improviser's original Jerkage.

A team leader or other manager might reasonably object to a sudden change in direction by pointing out that they should be consulted before such decisions are made. However, the Improviser has the perfect argument. "I couldn't possibly have consulted you sooner, I only just thought of the idea". How can you argue against that? Perfect.

Defending Fluidity
The beauty of the fluid argument is twofold. As already mentioned, it's impossible to shoot down a moving target which can immediately morph to incorporate the basis of any argument against it. Secondly, though, it's fair to say that the world is an ever changing landscape; if this is true, then plans must be able to turn at the drop of a hat in order to cope with the change. This appears to those people not charged with executing these ludicrous half-formed pipe-dreams that the fluid planning is the antidote to the intrinsic chaos in the world. Of course, this is not remotely true. The fluid, consultation-free, commitment to any fleeting glimpse of sparkly idea, passing through the head of this moron-turned-leader, is going to cause more chaos than would have existed if the person in question had simply asked around for what their people would like to do.

Wriggling Out Of Anything
Improvisation is a trick which provides a path through any quagmire. If necessary, the terms can be redefined in the middle of a discussion, to avoid any reasonable opposition, and the terms can be partially defined to avoid conflict, as nobody (including the Improviser) really understands what's being suggested, what the next steps are, what the timescales are and who would be responsible for achieving it. In addition, Improvisation, where things are vague anyway, allows the world to be redefined retrospectively, so history can be revised and the Improviser can be painted as the one true voice in a chaotic world of madness - the madness that they created in the first place. Anyone who can see this madness for what it is will be so enraged by it that they will be crippled from opposition by their own sense of impotentence.

Holding the Ear of Management
Upper management won't be able to spot the work of the Improviser as being a slippery nonsense. This is because the Improviser is able to convert the impossible challenges into plans that sound feasible. The Improviser has an answer for everything. If the upper management provide constraints that might make the job harder, the Improviser can simply promise anything, with an apparently reasonable justification. On top of that, the Improviser will revise history on the fly, suggesting evidence that the apparent problems that are being put forward have already been solved by a previous attempt at their just-thought-up hare-brained scheme.

How can management refuse a voice that has the immediate answer to everything that they're making up? It's even harder for them to refuse this voice if they themselves are using the same improvisational techniques to propagate their nonsense strategies down the hierarchy.

Killing Your Team
Insistence in the face of convincing evidence to the contrary of your whimsical plans is hard, but will, ultimately, make people expect that you're going to dig your heels in to make it happen. As a result, the battle-worn losers will stop any form of opposition. When things don't work out, there's always the historical revisionism and the renaming of failures and techniques so that nothing seems to make sense and the Improviser is the only person with a strong enough voice to keep things moving forwards. One demotivated team equals one empowered Jerk.

How to Spot The Knee Jerk Improviser
Here are some key phrases:
  • Can't we just
  • Hey, let's outsource to...
  • It's not outsourcing, it's smart-resourcing
  • These constraints aren't easy
  • Don't call it that
  • I prefer the term...
  • The benefits are obvious
  • We can't do this without...
  • It's just a simple matter of
  • We can throw a little bit of money at it...
  • I know it sounds impossible, but...
  • So, we all agree then