Coring Pineapples and Other Management Follies
“Listen to those under your supervision. Really listen. Don’t act as if you’re listening and let it go in one ear and out the other. Faking it is worse than not doing it at all.” Robert I. Sutton, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best... and Learn from the Worst
“Lots of folks confuse bad management with destiny.” Kin Hubbard
Did you know that many pineapple farmers “core” the pineapples they sell? They drill out the middle of the crown so you can’t grow one from the fruit you buy in the store.
I thought it would be neat to grow a pineapple, so I watched several YouTube videos on how to grow one, “guaranteed”. I tried several times and failed. Then I happened to hear one of the pineapple experts mention that you need to look for a pineapple that wasn’t cored. I went to the supermarket, and sure enough every pineapple I looked at had the middle drilled out. Look for yourself! After several trips, I finally found a whole pineapple and was able to grow it into a beautiful plant!
But why are they cored? It takes 3 years for a pineapple to mature. Are pineapple farmers really afraid that individuals are going to start churning out pineapples by the thousands and threaten their business model? All that time and money wasted coring pineapples for no obvious reason.
Looks like bad management.
The State Patrol is beginning to pull people over again. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic police kept their lights on and continued to patrol, but they weren’t pulling people over or issuing tickets. I have to admit I liked the policy and didn’t notice people driving faster. It was nice to see a patrol car and know they were there to protect, not to pull me over for some minor infraction.
In cities across the country police forces are under siege. There are riots in major cities, and in Seattle a group of protesters went so far as to take over a police station and declare a couple of blocks of the city an “autonomous zone”. Vandals are defacing historic monuments with no consequences, looters are caught and then released without being charged and people are openly confronting the police.
This evening I went for a short drive, and within a few miles I noticed three different cars pulled over by our State Patrol for what appeared to be minor infractions. I guess we are getting back to normal. But in an environment where major crimes are going unpunished on national television, why would a State Police commander think it is a good idea to begin issuing tickets for minor traffic offenses? People will draw those comparisons and wonder why they are expected to pay traffic fines while the people on television aren't suffering any consequences for unlawful behavior. Perceived disparate treatment is what caused the current problem.
Looks like bad management.
Smart organizations are beginning to conduct retrospectives on their reaction to the COVID-19 Pandemic and modifying their core processes based on what may be a new reality. At a minimum they are identifying what they did wrong.
A “service” organization I am familiar with is conducting such an retrospective. As a “customer” of that organization, I was excited to provide feedback. That organization struggled with their reaction to COVID-19, and when they struggle my team suffers. Just yesterday I heard the most amazing (and simultaneously depressing) thing. They aren’t going to get feedback from their customers, rather they are doing a retrospective on their own.
How can a service organization do a postmortem of their performance without consulting the very people they supposedly “serve”?
Looks like bad management.
I could go on.
Why does leadership make such poor choices? Two simple reasons: 1) Poor metrics 2) Lack of introspection
Do you think a study was done on how many pineapple sales were lost due to home farming? I can't imagine it. The more likely scenario is that someone mentioned to the wrong powerful person that people were growing pineapples at home, and a new policy was born! Do you think there is a metric at the State Patrol that measures attitude toward law enforcement as a function of traffic tickets? Probably not, but I guarantee there is one for how much they collect off tickets! For the service organization I referenced, I know there aren't useful metrics for my concerns as a customer.
The second problem is that most organizations (and by extension, managers) lack introspection. “Management” always has a problem looking in the mirror. It is human nature! No one wants to revisit bad choices or missteps, but if you don’t revisit them how can your organization (or you!) grow? This is another project management practice that a broader audience would benefit from adopting.
It is called "Lessons Learned".
Today the "news" announced that Harvard University will discontinue using the SAT or ACT scores for admissions. With the failure of journalism, you have to filter "news" to determine if it is actually true or if you are being lied to. However this story rang true. It is also very disturbing. As a society we appear to be moving away from objective, quantifiable truth in almost all our decision making. If colleges select students based purely on test scores, it would be a merit based admission process. If they apply subjective criteria, then they can do what they want and call it “progress”.
I call it pathetic.