Jenkins: Compromise key to good enterprise

Jenkins: Compromise key to good enterprise

February 19th, 2010 by Donnie Jenkins in Blogstechcast

The Harvard Business Review recently presented an excellent article by Morten Hansen on five mistakes to avoid when working with others.

The first issue is the need for consistent language throughout an organization or network. Often the head of a company will outline a mission statement only to have an employee or associate verbally sabotage it by contradicting the premise.

One of the popular social networks had this problem a while back when an employee who happened to be a relative of the founder made casual statements about deleting the account of someone who had offended the person. The individual later claimed to be making a joke, but the incident planted a seed of doubt about the leadership and vision of the company. The message must be the same across the board to communicate trust and confidence.

Next, the article makes the point that assigning tasks to others is not the same as teamwork or collaboration. You can often see this at work in tech companies who start out strongly, but later. Leaders should participate in the process they are leading, especially in technology companies. We could all learn from Gandhi who once said, "There go my people: I must catch up with them in order to lead them."

Third, there must be a meaningful outreach to opponents or to those who might question our goals. One of my favorite words is reciprocity, which implies a give-and-take relationship. Social networks such as Facebook offer a good look at this principle.

On Facebook you will find every kind of dialogue on any possible subject. Sometimes people debate politics, religion and other vital subjects with respect. Other times it's a free for all. The best exchanges happen when each party is actually paying respectful attention to the points made by the other and shows that respect in the way he or she responds to the post. It is in this outreach that we improve and expand our lives and interests.

Fourth, we must learn when a compromise will best achieve our goal. I often stress with clients the need to always keep the end result desired in view and to constantly measure how well we are moving toward that goal. Often it will be necessary to adjust our original plan to include other people or interests.

In the tech world this principle often expresses itself in mergers of companies who share the same vision. While not all mergers are a good match, two companies that compromise can sometimes create a vital new whole.

You see this at work often in the willingness of a company's founders to set aside differences to create something new and great. Apple's success could not exist had not Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak agreed to balance their opposite natures to build the company.

Finally and most important, there must be a unifying goal, a statement of purpose. Much like a magnet will instantly organize iron filings on a glass surface, so will a clear goal organize effort and resources in a powerful way. Using Apple again as an example, they have communicated volumes of information in slogans such as Think "Different", be Insanely Great, and so on. The best tech companies have this goal-oriented outlook in mind all the time.

Thanks to those who e-mailed me with questions on this and similar subjects, and I hope this will address some of your concerns.