Business Management: There Is No Magic (I Checked)

Posted on August 28, 2015

I am not an entrepreneur.  I’ve known this about myself for a long time.  I am a builder.  The requirements for one who creates and one who builds are very different, and I am the latter.  This knowledge has driven me to study as hard as I can to learn how to be the best at building, to learn everything that there is.

Management Systems.  Organizational Structure.  Policy Frameworks.  ISO Standards.  SOX and COSO.  Corporate Governance.  ITSM.  Corporate & Business Strategy.  Operations Management.  Competitive Analysis.  Business Formation.  Business Modeling.  Organizational Behavior.  Organizational Design.  Culture.  Psychology.  Sociology.  Pragmatism.  LEAN.  Fordism.  And on… and on… and on…

I have learned a great many things but at the bottom of it all is a sad truth: no one knows what they are doing.  There are a lot of theories.  There are a lot of ideas, tricks, tips, and models.  But in the end, there isn’t any magic.  There isn’t any clear cut system which simply needs to be implemented.

Organizational Systems aren’t like operating systems, where you find the one that best suits you and then you just install it and modify to taste.  Rather, they are born from chaos and over time the goo hardens into a mess of a system, so messy that most people don’t recognize it as anything at all.  Then, over a long period of time, a great host of individuals chip away at small parts of it, smooth it and shape it, and eventually, it begins to look something like we are expecting an organization to resemble, and then knowing that there is still so much to do, we go back and get on with our jobs and leave well enough alone.

Business is a mess.  As a child of the 80’s I view corporations as institutions, solid and dependable.  Sure, they come and go, but so do nations.

When we become adults we were scared of having children.  Scared we don’t know what we’re doing, but secretly hoping that it’ll just come to us when the child is born.  Some part of is even scared that we’ll turn into our parents without realizing it.  And some times we do.  But more often than not, we never do figure out parenting, we just roll with it day by day, and at some point we’ve raised a child who will spend decades believing that all that day to day was in fact all part of a grand master-plan which they just haven’t figured out yet…. but, there wasn’t any plan, at best the plan was rough and changing slightly day to day.

So too organizations.  They are born, ready or not, grow faster than we think, need more than we know or can give, and as leaders we just do the best that we can, day by day, and hope in the end we do all right.

This revelation should be empowering, and maybe one day it will be, but in that moment of striving for an ideal and finding none, its just depressing.