Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Warm up Cool down

It has been only a week since my interview for survival. My mood has fluctuated in the aftermath to what I thought was a pretty average interview by myself. Within the coming week, I'll be served some sort of reality - maybe good maybe bad.

One of my friends/erstwhile competitors was philosophical about my criticism that our managers have higher managerial expectations of us than they have of themselves when it comes to change management. He said that we are all managers and need to be able to cope with more able subordinates. True - I'm out qualified by two of my subordinates. Well said, I guess, but it is hard to discern any technique or strategy that has been used to demote three of your most talented managers, and address the ripple effect down the chain. But it can be the worse, right? One has to ask, how would Chairman Mao manage? (HWCMM?)

You might wonder why I'd even raise the fellow apart from this whole being-in-China thing. I've just finished Peter Hessler's two books River Town and Oracle Bones, lovely books that enrich the whole experience of being in China - to hear a voice that is insightful into the, dare I say it, Chinese mind. Mao is always there in the background. Mao is the baggage for a heck of a lot of Chinese people. Mao could manage a revolution! (Though perhaps not a country nor an economy.) And in some ways the new managers are handling a revolution.

Chairman Mao, according to Deng Xiaoping (his successor), was 70% right and 30% wrong, which is a nice way to cover for rather efficient mismanagement. He could run a good revolution - he declared the People's Republic on 1 October 1949 after all. But from that point on made management decisions that led to tens of millions of deaths. He would surely run the company into the ground. But management, especially of a large overpopulated poor nation, is hardly an easy thing. It's a modern fascination to wonder how people of the past would do in the present. We'd all want to know if Aristotle would handle the credit crisis with aplomb, or whether Napoleon would have been a great stock market trader. But my job is important to me so I want to imagine what Mao would do in the hot seat of my company.

So HWCMM? Well, the biggest thing is his dedication to a dogma: Mao hated even the notion of a class structure, of anything beyond the enforced egalitarian of the masses, those who were not class enemies or the communist upper tier. Perhaps Mao would flatten out the structure all together. We are a school and a school should just have teachers, plowing fields and fields of fertile minds. Make it simple: just have your farmers tilling - reduce the "upper class" of management (well, perhaps just the middle level) and occupy them with labour so that there is no chance of revolt. Er, well maybe he's still holding his own with this crowd. It is the way we're going...

Probably the aspect of the interview for my position that annoyed me the most is the difference between expectations and reality. It had happened before. We have been told that we have moved to a Competency Model. This is where every job should have its strengths which candidates are measured by. Sounded good. I entered my first interview with the faulty impression it applied to interviews. It wasn't the case. It wasn't surprising that it was a case for the most recent interview. I still prepared to show my worth under each of the competencies - but it wasn't required. They ask you questions from oblique angles to test out your reasoning - they did that even though they didn't have a thorough understanding of your past or present. I reflected with another friend/erstwhile competitor afterward that we both didn't say our biggest achievements because we were driven away from answering meaningfully by a style of questioning that rarely went near covering the stated competencies. It often was looking for our basic philosophies - which is good but the philosophy they were looking for wasn't stated. Do you conform with the thinking that we haven't told you about. My philosophical friend/erstwhile competitor took it as testing our ability to think, and if we were creative we could pull in our particular achievements.

But this all is speculation, what is more important is HWCMM? Well, the chairman was big on basic philosophy, too. Philosophy was the root of the problem. (But is it a problem?) Even your background may lead you astray. Ability can be misled by philosophy after all so we should evaluate whether people abide by the dogma of the Party. It makes it simpler after all. So, er, well comparing how he managed and the way the interview was run, I can see some similarities... I think he'd like the whole "tell them one thing and then attack them contrary to their expectations" strategy. Reminiscent of the Hundred Flowers campaign.

Maybe Mao wouldn't do a bad job after all... It might be a bit hasty to say that he'd run a company into the ground any faster or slower.

I should really drop this negativity. It isn't doing me any good than amusing me and driving me onto the recruitment websites? I just want the final decision out in the open so I can properly adjust and think what I really want. If I'm demoted, can I deal with a year without solid aspiration? It'd give me time to get qualified to diploma level. I can manage a school now in my sleep. (I'm not prone to boasting but I'm doing terrificly well right now with my school.) It's true that I'm still learning but I can stay in this school forever and my learning is only getting less and less.

I'm an innate optimist though. The thing that breaks me out of my negativity is currently the prospect of being one of the two left standing. It'd be mighty interesting. I do want it. It might be twice the work for the same money. But it'd be well earned money. Growth money. I would love the challenge. Just let me have the challenge. Please. All is forgiven. Mao. Whatever your name would be. I shall serve thee, the party and the company, and shan't make splashy wave-making arm movements apropos your leadership.

I should just work this out at the gym. Warm up. Work out. Cool down. Then and only then is it real.


Edwin said...

Well as you said, chairman Mao is good at managing revolutions. ie. uniting people to fight against a common enemy. At first the enemy was the Nationalists, when they are gone, he had no clue of how to manage a peaceful society and allow it to thrive. A wise person would have acknowledged the fact and stepped down, allow others to take things over (George Washington comes to mind).

But...oh well, he loved being in power too much, so he then went on to create more common enemies, and does what he knew how to do best, inspire people to fight against them.

So I guess my point is, if you really want to practice HWCMM, then perhaps you are missing one key element: common enemies.

I don't think it's your nature to play that game though :) Otherwise you'd be reading books like 'The Prince' by Niccolo Machiavelli or its Chinese equal 'Thick Black Theory'.

Crypticity said...

Well, my focus was more on selecting the action our management and comparing with Mao and not vice versa. But I get your point. You'd love to hear of a management team who'd say: we've now got everyone in the right place doing the right thing. We're all demoting ourselves to the rank of teachers and doing what we love, shoulder to shoulder.

Business does revolve around the idea of eternal revolution. Management's job is never finished.