Thursday, August 28, 2008

Should You Manage People or the Environment?

Fish do not notice the water in which they swim.

Every company has a culture. There are myths and stories that are told which reflect the company culture. Its hard to define, its difficult to see and it affects every decision, project and action a company takes.

Is it easier for a fish to swim with the current or against it? Does the pounding rain, rocking waves and conflicting currents lead to curious and creative fish or small, protectionist and defensive fish?

Should you try and manage the fish or will you do better managing the environment?

Photo Credit: Olive Eyel


Anonymous said...


I like the depth that you are going on this question. I believe that this is a question that we have all had at some point in our careers.
My opinion, as simple as it may be, is again....only my opinion.

We have to really examine ourselves when we ask ourselves the same question. What is the motivation behind our desire to either change the environment or adapt to the environment? Is our desire and intent based out of rage over the situation if we decide to change it? Is our decision based out of fear when we decide to adapt to the environment? There is also a plethera of other emotional states that we can make this decision from.
If we attempt to change the environment, are we prepared for the political and emotional backlash that is sure to follow? Are we mentally and emotionally strong enough to withstand it?
If we chose to adapt are we doing this as to not cause waves? If so, can we look at ourselves in the mirror and also look at our children and know that we are not strong enough to change what must be changed in the environment?
When I decided to concentrate more on my company, Magellan Consulting, there was a tremendous amount of personal fear that reared it's ugly head when I made that choice. I feared how I would be perceived by others as most of my colleagues and peers were of the conservative, right wing, Allen Edmond wearing, three piece suit persuasion. That was a very real issue for me.
But then I had this epiphany; If I could not have the courage to face my own fears (whether realized fears or just plain fear of the unknown..) how could I in good conscious sit there and advise my clients to do the same in order to change their lives for the better? I would be an incredible hypocrit. So after much contemplation, meditation and facing my fears, I decided that if these individuals were actual friends and good people, they would accept me for what I am and for what I do. If they chose not to, well then that was their decision and not mine.
The point that I am making in this long winded comment is that we all have choices in our lives. We know, intuitively, what the right choice is. But the question becomes whether or not we have the courage to act upon our intuition and go against the tide?
The ride that endures if you chose to ride the tide and the pursuing storm is a treacherous one. But after the storm, you will know that you did the right thing and that you may have affected numerous people for the better who will in turn, find the courage to follow their intuition and ride that wave. Leaders set the example. Managers drink the kool-aid.
- Anthony Preman -
Quantitative Consultant,
Magellan Consulting, LLC

Anonymous said...


Here is a list that I compiled many years ago as a Commissioned Officer in the United States Army. I have taken this list and lived by many of the suggestions (not all of them..I'm only human)ever since. You can change the terminology to fit the corporate environment as well.



1. Know what’s right – you MUST know your profession, it is your solemn obligation.
2. Do what’s right – especially when it’s difficult. Suspect the easy way.
3. Know yourself. If you don’t know who you are, no one else will either.
4. Know where the Schwerepunkt is – and be there in garrison and training as well as war.
5. Lead by example – your actions define you. Soldiers learn by watching, not by listening.
6. Set standards and enforce them. The setting is easy, it’s the ENFORCEMENT that’s tough.
7. Share the agony and the discomfort. When the weather’s bad, the night is long, the work is tough, or life is dangerous – BE THERE!
8. Do you best at every task whether you like it or not. What you like doesn’t matter to the unit or the mission.
9. Know the cost – nothing is free.
10. Don’t waste time. When it’s gone, that’s all there is. Planning and organization are the keys.
11. LISTEN – you DON’T know all the answers.
12. Discipline is when the soldiers do what is right when no one is looking. It grows from leadership and training, NOT PUNISHMENT.
13. Understand terrain, it is the key to victory.
14. No one can take your integrity away from you – you have to give it away. Don’t.
15. Be selfless.
16. Excell out of a sense of duty and pride, not for an efficiency report, an award, or a promotion.
17. No one cares who your parents were – it’s who you are that counts.
18. Never tolerate carelessness in yourself or others.
19. Do not be afraid to admit you are/were wrong.
20. Rank does NOT have its privileges, it has RESPONSIBILITIES.
21. You are not entitled to anything unless you earned it.
22. A painful truth does less damage than a comfortable lie.
23. Deliver bad news personally whenever possible.
24. Bad news does not get better with age BUT know the facts before you push to talk.
25. Take responsibility for your actions and inaction, but understand what happened and why.
26. Learn from your mistakes – don’t make the same one twice.
27. Learn from OTHERS’ mistakes – it’s less painful.
28. When the bottom drops out, forget the blame and find the solution.
29. When things go well, soldiers hold themselves up. When the bottom drops out, YOU have to hold them up.
30. Stay calm, they’re watching and will act like you do.
31. Never show depression or disconsolation, it is catching.
32. Profanity doesn’t make you one of the guys. It offends some and diminishes you to others. Be careful how you use it.
33. There is a role for “Devine Anger” (Patton), but use it cautiously. Overuse dilutes the effects.
34. The impact of anger increases logarithmically with rank.
35. Facing defeat requires more courage than celebrating victory.
36. If your subordinates don’t understand the guidance, YOU weren’t clear enough. NEVER assume they understand without confirming it.
37. Always give authority along with responsibility.
38. If a soldier perceives it to be true, it might as well be.
39. Don’t romanticize combat – it’s your job, not a hobby.
40. If you don’t understand, ask. If is better to look like a fool than to be one.
41. Doing well is more important than looking good – but professionals look good TOO.
42. Never argue with your commander in public, but ALWAYS stand up for your positions in private.
43. Keep your pants zipped on the job and with your subordinates. Sex and work do not mix. Don’t tolerate this in others.
44. Alcohol is the number 1 problem maker. Do not glorify it’s use. Never drink and drive or tolerate the practice in others.
45. Treat people like people – they are.
46. Never embarrass people on purpose – you may forget it, but they won’t.
47. Do not Joke at the expense of the dignity of others. If 50 laugh and one is embarrassed, you have done more harm than good.
48. Take care of your soldiers – if you don’t stand up for them, no one will. This is there first measure of you.
49. Know your soldiers – Remember names – they are important.
50. Talk to your soldiers where they work and after “duty” hours. Be available – and approachable.
51. Soldiers have a right to talk to you – you have a DUTY to hear and understand what they are saying, but they seldom say what they really mean. Read between the lines.
52. Remember the guards and CQ’s, especially on holidays.
53. Remember the families. A soldier who is worrying about his family is not thinking about his job.
54. Soldiers come in assorted colors and two sexes, but they all bleed red and wear green. Treat them the same, THAT is equality.
55. The Army is based on equality of opportunity, not a guarantee of equality of outcomes. Some succeed, some don’t.
56. The Army is NOT multi-cultural. We all adapt to the ARMY culture or leave.
57. Being liked is immaterial --- for every soldier who thinks you walk on water there is one who wishes you would drown.
58. ALWAYS keep your promises – if you can’t do it, don’t promise it.
59. Praise in public, admonish in private.
60. Take the blame and pass the credit on down.
61. Be Fair – reward and punish evenly, but ALWAYS reward the deserving and punish the guilty. Eliminate the troublemakers.
62. Promote and reward solely on the basis of merit, performance, and potential.
63. Credit the honest attempt, but reward only success.
64. When subordinates fail, learning is more important than punishment but you may still have to punish.
65. Relief is the solution of last resort. You BOTH fail.
66. If you must relieve, do it now – and explain why.
67. The private fights with his weapon. You fight with your unit.
68. Train as you will fight – you will fight like you train.
69. Everything is training – even maintenance.
70. Train your soldiers to the Army Standard. Evaluate and provide feed back. Use FM 25-100 and FM 25-101 (FM 7-0)
71. Integrate safety into everything you do. Soldiers are too important to kill or maim.
72. Never miss and SP or an LD time. Others are depending on you.
73. Pre-execution checks (AKA pre-Combat Checks) are essential – organize and institutionalize them.
74. Rehearse and get brief-backs.
75. ALWAYS use After Action Reviews.
76. Marksmanship is the essential soldier skill, for both individual and crew served weapons.
77. Always do maintenance by the book – no one can remember all the steps and your lives depend on the equipment functioning.
78. If you don’t know how it’s supposed to be done, you can’t tell if they’re doing it right when you check.
79. Trust your subordinates, but check anyway.
80. Inspections are important – schedule them and institutionalize them.
81. Inspect to find the problems while they can still be corrected.
82. Plan ahead. Even if everything collapses, it is easier to change from a known point than to wing it from the start.
83. Encourage discussion and input during planning. Include the NCO’s as well – their opinions are important.
84. Run, even if you hate it. Fitness gives you endurance on the battlefield.
85. While you’re running or waiting, think. Write down your ideas for future use.
86. Always have a pen and paper. 3 x 5 cards are great.
87. Take notes during orders and instructions. You can’t remember it all and won’t.
88. Prepare NCO Efficiency Reports as if they were your own – they are more important.
89. Sleep some every night in the field. Exhausted people make bad decisions which kill people.
90. Eat in the Mess Hall with your soldiers and provide “hots” in the field.
91. Pay your soldiers – find the No Pay Due vouchers and take action BEFORE Pay Day.
92. Equip your soldiers – get them what they need and make them maintain and account for it.
93. Meetings should not last more than 1 hour – stay focused, organization is the key.
94. Read – make your officers read.
95. Teach – you are the headmaster, EVERYONE learns from you, both good and bad lessons.
96. Make Sam Damon your idol. If you don’t know him, read ONCE AN EAGLE.
97. Eliminate every Courtney Massengale you find. See Above.
98. Always bring out your wounded and your dead.
99. God, Country, Mission, Soldiers, Family, You. In that order.
100. Trust your instincts – they got you here.
101. Have fun and keep your sense of humor.

Josh said...

Manage the water, with the fish in mind.

Josh Nankivel

Andrew Meyer said...


thanks for some great insight and 101 wonderful suggestions.


what a great addition. Thank you.