Saturday, December 10, 2005

It's the journey stupid.
Enterprise and civility.

Professional yellers are stinking up the place.

Big mouths, big egos. The obnoxiousness of absolute certainty. True Believers, as Eric Hoffer called them.

The stated purpose of these posts is to encourage two things. The one that gets the most attention here lately is that you should take steps to make your life more economically sustainable by creating enterprises that make the world better. The other is the glory of simplicity in designing products, services, and processes for those enterprises.

This post is about the role of civility in enterprise. And the fact that it's in your self interest.

First the topic, then a nice implementation piece from Tom Peters.

The Providence Journal, over in Rhode Island, published a nice guest column by Eugene G. Bernardo, titled "Rise of Political Incivility Threatens our Democracy."

Mr. Bernardo cites a famous theory from criminology called "broken windows". If a vandal breaks a window or defaces a building, or dumps garbage and that mess isn't fixed, the redshift of decline accelerates. More broken windows, more garbage.

A telling change also occurs in the human behavior of the residents as their perceptions of the decline grow. "They will use the streets less often, and when on the streets will stay apart from their fellows, moving with averted eyes, silent lips, and hurried steps. Don't get involved."

Mr. Bernardo goes on to say that while we all have a constitutional right to speak with incivility, doing so hurts our own self interest significantly.

"By encouraging us to see as equals even those with whom we disagree vehemently, civility lets us hold the respectful dialogs without which democratic decisionmaking is impossible."

Yep. The same goes for your enterprise life, friend.

If we let the bums and professional yellers dominate commercial life, then we all lose. To get good decisions for yourself, make good decisions for everybody (except your competitors).

The "broken windows" theory says you can accept decline, or you can take back the streets. There's a built in success loop when you do things right. However, if you're going to set up your enterprise to cut corners and live in the shade, you put yourself into a neighborhood where the vandals are winning. Guess how your enterprise life will progress? Think gravity.

If you can make it a habit to look up and smile, to fix the broken glass, to say hello, you can sustain yourself and your enterprise and maybe change the world a little bit.

Enterprises of all sorts, for profits and non profits, need excellent discipline in their execution. That execution, done civilly can make your enterprise life worth living.

You know the drill. It's not the destination, it's the journey.

Today, people are learning about enterprise life from bad movies and worse TV. This cutthroat, take no commercial prisoners, sell whatever you can as unethically as possible is BS. It's not sustainable. Do enterprise crooks win? All the time, but that's not a life most people aspire to.

For the rest of us, living decent enterprise lives, sustainability comes from building bridges. Finding common ground. Being a fellow human because it's the right damn thing to do. If you need the bean counter return on investment justification, being civil means better decision making. Better decision making is in your own self interest. Argue with that.

Tom Peters posted a short piece on his site about an interchange he had while traveling. TP is a big shot biz guy who could easily throw his commercial weight around. However, involving people civilly works better.

Tom's post, dated November 21, 2005 revolved around an American Airlines counter agent who was being ripped by customers and her employer. Tom was working through screw ups like everyone else. Bad situations every direction.

Do you contribute to the problem or do you contribute to the solution? Here's TP's approach...

“Operation You-Alone-Can-Help-Me-and-I-Dearly-Pray-You-Will. We joked a little, commiserated about our different but extreme pickles, and I just kept on smilin'. Several things happened. By behaving in a relaxed, empathetic, life-goes-on fashion, I actually started to feel better myself—hey, this wasn't a trip to market in Baghdad. More important (selfishly), my "you're the only one for me" AA(Air) buddy bent over backwards and then some to track the bag, double-confirm its current whereabouts, get unequivocal info on the arriving flight, give me a priority hotel dropoff slot, and so on. And I flatter myself by thinking that she, too, ended up feeling a touch better about life—it really isn't much fun to be ripped, and ripped again, by customers mostly because your employer is in dire straits and understaffed everywhere and has left you on point to take [all] the heat.”

Tom Peters continues, "That's my "little tale." But of course it's not so little at all. It's near the heart of what happens on those occasions when human beings take the trouble in the face of trouble to deal in a civil and empathetic and even cheerful fashion with their fellows. That's not "news"...except that of course it is!"

Yep again. That's my news for the week. Your enterprise life can be one you can be proud of. It's the easier path. You don't need to live it out among broken windows and commercial idiots.

Build something you can be proud of. You can do this. You should do this. Keep up the details, then execute with civility, please.

Eric Hoffer resource site "Good and evil grow up together and are bound in an equilibrium that cannot be sundered. The most we can do is try to tilt the equilibrium toward the good."

Tom Peters. Want to lead a good enterprise life? Put Tom on your daily links.

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