Modern Middle Manager
Primarily my musings on the practical application of technology and management principles at a financial services company.
Change Your Mind?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007  

One of my favorite stories goes like this: after being given a very disturbing prognosis delivered in an offhand manner by a medical resident, a real doctor came in to examine my condition. He was far less flippant and weighed the risk of the resident's prognosis as highly unlikely. The resident, still eager to show off how intelligent he was, declared my condition to be the result of damage to a particular nerve. The response from the doctor was, "Are you sure?" The resident, slightly less confident, repeated his conjecture. Once again, the doctor stated, "Are you sure?" Even after years of management, I know when you're being given a second or third chance to get the right answer, so I helped the resident by saying, "Sounds like you need to change your answer." I rather enjoyed getting in that barb.

On Friday the 29th, I had a conversation with the senior manager of our biggest business unit (we'll call him BK for Big Kahuna) about how to approach his extremely important make-or-break the company and his career project for 2007. I gave him my perspective, which he initially found appealing. The following Tuesday I called him to find out if he had accepted my solution. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I was wondering if you made a decision on our approach to the Really Big Initiative.

BK: Yes, you were going to send me a recommendation.

Me: I was? {Note: This part should not have been voiced. Duh.}

BK: Yes.

Me: I thought I gave you my suggestion on Friday. {Note: See how I grow denser.}

BK: You need to factor in [thus and so].

Me: [Finally catching on.] I will have my analysis and recommendation to you by Friday.

To recap: I made an practical, appealing suggestion on Friday that I thought was all but a done deal. On Tuesday, it was turned into "you are going to give me a recommendation." But I already had. That was my hint. And so I wrote the recommendation up, giving weight to the "thus and so." And he had the answer that affirmed the approach he already wanted me to take.

That is how office politics is done.

posted by Henry Jenkins | 1/03/2007 10:31:00 AM

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