Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Are you a Time Teller or a Clock Builder?

I was a boy scout as a kid (and yes I got my Eagle) and loved to camp and learn about outdoor and survival skills. I remember, once, hearing about how some explorers could tell time by looking at the position of the Sun. I used to try doing this while I was out mowing yards (which seemed to be pretty much all the time) and I was always way off.

In the book Built to Last the authors propose that it really would be impressive if someone could look up in the sky to gauge the position of the sun and tell you what time it is. It would be even more impressive if they could do it consistently and with great accuracy. The person may even build a traveling show around it where they perform this feat for audiences all around the globe. But eventually, the "time teller" is going to retire or pass away and the traveling show will take its tent down for the last time and all the support cast will be out of a job.

The authors continue by suggesting an approach with a longer-term view: build a company that builds clocks.

Now, to be fair, I'd hate to see Andrea Bocelli stop all public performances and set up a school for aspiring tenors. This metaphor has some obvious limitations. But it's useful for us to take a look at our own work and honestly see if we're trying to hoard the knowledge, the power, remain the one and only subject matter expert, or if we're sharing, documenting, and collaborating.

The authors point out that the first approach is self-centered while the latter is focused upon the customer/employee/enterprise and their collective well-being.

No comments: