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Me first, me first!

June 16, 2015

I’ve spent a lot of time driving in southern California, averaging over 35,000 miles per year for twenty years.  Thankfully, I don’t drive quite that anymore, but I still drive quite a bit.  One thing I’ve noticed over the years that’s become more and more prevalent is what I call the “me first” syndrome.  There are no cars behind you for literally over a mile, but the driver next to you will speed up to move over in front of you (often requiring you to hit the brakes).  When lanes merge, drivers will freely use the emergency lane or shoulder to get just a few more cars ahead, merging at the last second.  The concept of taking turns appears to escape them completely.  And while this is admittedly very annoying when driving, it’s the impact to organizations that’s more concerning.

The mindset of me first and the devil take everyone else is detrimental to an organization.  Even in a company filled with individual contributors, interaction and resource allocation has to occur.  If everyone prioritizes their wants and needs above those of everyone else, the end result is fighting over resources, strife-filled relationships, inefficiencies and even failure.  Because sooner or later, compromise, whether as minor as letting a colleague “go first” so they can make a meeting, or as major as giving up or sharing resources, making your project more challenging to complete but supporting the collective success of multiple projects, has to happen.  And a me first attitude precludes even the idea of compromise – negatively impacting you, your colleagues, and your organization.  Compromise doesn’t mean losing, or giving up everything to someone else.  Compromise is achieved by “…each side making concessions.”1 Give a little, get a little, and everyone succeeds.

One of our clients was going through their annual budgeting process.  One manager suggested that they set the deadlines, send out budget templates, and “just hold the managers to the dates – it’s part of their job.”  I’ve seen the results of that approach before – missed deadlines, inaccurate information, and more time following up.  And the end result is often an inaccurate and poorly understood budget with no buy-in by the team – basically, a waste of time.  Our suggestion was to make the choice to support the managers, by scheduling budget building sessions around their schedules and providing a guided walk-through of the process.  Yes, this was painful for the finance team – we were already short on resources and this was going to be a major time commitment.  The managers had to commit to living to the budget they built (no outs by saying it was built by finance, or they didn’t understand it).  But the end result?  A solid budget, understood by all of the management team, delivered on schedule – with the entire management team committed to living by it.

So the next time the lane you’re in on the freeway merges with another, why not let that car next to you merge in?  You’ll both get to your destination more quickly, with less stress – and shouldn’t that be your goal?

1 https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=compromise%20definition

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Dick permalink
    June 16, 2015 1:38 pm

    A simple test of the veracity of such budgeting “compromises” – Do the other managers, individually or even as a group, have the same power to reduce Finance’s budget as Finance has on theirs?

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