Thursday, May 26, 2011

Business Killing Acronym

Not Invented Here is a common organizational syndrome:  If my company — or I — didn’t think of it, it must be worthless.  (A close cousin to NIH is IHBLR, Invented Here But Let’s Reinvent It Anyway.) 
Individuals also fall prey to NIH.  Everyone has worked for a boss who hated any idea we proposed unless we found ways to make him think it was his idea.
NIH can affect anyone:  Supervisors, managers, and especially executives and business owners — because the root of all NIH evil is ego.  The higher you rise, the greater the risk of NIH infection.

If you or your business has a chronic case of NIH, here are a few antidotes:
  • Focus on the idea, not the originator. People at all levels of the organization have good ideas.  Assuming an entry-level employee’s ideas will be worthless is just as foolish as assuming your boss always has great ideas. Gold wrapped in cellophane is just as valuable as gold wrapped in velvet; the value is in the gold.  With ideas, value is in the idea, not where the idea comes from.
  • Focus on the idea, not the industry. I learned more about increasing manufacturing efficiency from spending thirty minutes in a poultry processing plant than I learned from any formal process improvement program.  (And I’ve gone through — and led — a bunch of programs.)  Keep an open mind and sometimes the best ideas can be borrowed from other industries.
  • Focus on the idea, not your ego. Being in charge doesn’t make you smarter, savvier, or more creative.  Being in charge just makes you the one in charge; leaders aren’t granted a monopoly on great ideas.  Don’t hesitate to let others shine.  If one of your employees comes up with a great idea, it reflects well on you: You’re a great leader!  You’re developing great employees!  You deserve a raise!  (Okay, maybe not the last one.)
  • Hold a “something borrowed” session. Next time you meet to brainstorm, tell everyone they can only suggest ideas they’ve be successful somewhere else.  That automatically removes NIH from the equation since any suggestions by definition were invented elsewhere.
Reinventing the wheel can be expensive and time-consuming.  Plus there is no guarantee of success.  Often mediocre companies are stuck in an endless loop of NIH.
Business-Killing Acronym : LSD
Lead Singer Disease describes a singer in a rock band whose ego grows unchecked and eventually breaks up the band.   (Or starts judging American Idol.)
LSD can also describe any CEO, business owner, or manager whose ego outstrips his or her performance.
Want to know if you have LSD?  Diagnosing the condition is easy.  In the last month, did you:
  • Make a mistake?
  • Admit you were wrong?
  • Have any bad ideas?
  • Say, “I’m sorry”?
If you answered “no” to all of the above (or, really, any of the above) you have LSD.
Here’s the cure:
  • Talk less — a lot less. No interrupting, no digressing, no hijacking conversations in progress. LSD runs screaming from silence — your silence.
  • Listen more. Ask for an employee’s opinion or input and then actually listen.  Keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself.  If you must speak, only ask clarifying questions.  You’ll be surprised by how smart your employees really are once your LSD is into remission.
  • Let others run with a project — and stay out of their way. A primary symptom of LSD is the compulsion to inject your own thoughts and suggestions into an employee’s idea.  When you do, you kill the employee’s motivation.  If their idea needs tweaking, ask leading questions to help them identify the necessary modifications themselves.  In short:  Let an employee’s idea remain the employee’s idea.
Feel free to convert LSD as applicable:  Lead Supervisor Disease, Lead Salesperson Disease, Lead CEO Disease… the LSD shoe can fit a lot of feet.  Just make sure it doesn’t fit yours..