Is your business turning into a chicken whisperer?


Previously published on the old blog. Some cheap shots added to maintain my tradition of total intolerance of everything. 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamConsider this as a statement of business capabilities: “Our sales manager can talk to chickens. Sometimes they even condescend to reply and instruct us.”

Would you say this business has a problem?

Damn straight, it has a problem. The business has achieved total irrelevance, even to itself, and is being run by third party chickens.

We live in an era where any business operation, however important, can be turned into a Rube Goldberg exercise. It seems that everybody’s 5 cents is absolutely essential, even that of chicken-whisperers. Eternities are spent getting things done whether they need doing or not.

How much internal ritual could possibly be productive work? How many largely cosmetic processes are parts of production? How many people do you need to do creative direction or the other pro operational stuff?

OK, all businesses have a few pet executives and other novelty items. Some people do deliver value. The question, in effect, is how many micro managers could any business possibly need? Short answer, none. There are more than enough of these vermin in business to last forever.

Is your aspiring chicken business fossilizing?

Here’s a few symptoms of “business ritual sclerosis” in chicken business culture as they’re usually expressed in job ads:

“Eye for detail”: This is the standard excuse for progressing anything at the slowest, most irritating possible pace. Useful to a point, obviously, but also means the incumbents will insist on proving they know when a comma’s in the wrong place, etc. Unless you’re actually making money out of your grammar, how useful is that?

“Team player”: Gesundheit. Everyone is a team player- to the extent they understand teamwork. Everyone is also obliged to pull their weight in any team and deliver value as an individual. The fact is that teams can be as dysfunctional as their  chicken-brained members. This is a tautology which has become an extremely expensive oxymoron.  Replace this expression with “have a clue”, and you’ll get somewhere.

Qualifications: Qualifications in business tend to come in two forms: Theoretical and practical. The person with the practical qualifications is someone who can do the job, the theoretical person might be able to do the job. Practical people can always be taught theory. The problem with the theoretical person is that they’re likely to turn theory into operations, rather than practical business functions.

Qualifications also have a much shorter shelf life than they did a generation ago, and their relevance is highly questionable in some sectors of business. In context, do qualifications actually add up to delivered business product? If not, why not? Are qualified people being wasted, or just wrong for the work? Or do you just like hiring pluckwits?

Chickens aren’t great communicators, either

Communications: People are required to communicate, but look at how the range of additional operations blows out the frame of reference. The more steps there are in a process, the more “communication” is required, particularly in clucking form, therefore the more likely more misinterpretation will result.

Do you want to work for a chicken business?

Pecking orders: Let’s face it; turning business hiring into a popularity contest has been all bad. When hired, there’s a built-in structure in this sort of business to impair the performance of anyone from the start of their employment. Theses ritual based businesses tend to devalue and/or overvalue people according to social relationships, not talent or business priorities. Therefore the talent, given a chance, escapes, ASAP. Not good for businesses.

The result of all this brilliance is hiring chicken-whisperers, and creating a culture based on awe of the intellects of barnyard poultry. (” Manager-thing know how to use chair!”, etc.) If these symptoms are beginning to even vaguely resemble your business, deal with them now, before your business grows feathers and starts feeling insecure around KFC outlets.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

Some good news – Lost a few files, but updated SMJ is under way and will be published shortly – Like 50-100 pages from now.