Being Dave

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©Torsten Maue – MopedUploaded by High Contrast, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24983417

 

Last week I had the opportunity hearing a superb and inspiring talk by Mark Gallagher, a former Formula 1 manager. If you ever have the opportunity listening to Mark, I strongly recommend to not miss it!

Mark is fantastic in showing the importance of integrated teams and their impact on motivation, quality, if not championship (in its best and true meaning) by telling real-life stories from F1. Not this general “team is important”-blablabla on how it should be in theory. But truly experienced reality in an environment where competition and need for safety & quality converge at high speed.

One of his narratives had been about Dave, the bus driver. To make a long story short, on that particular day the team won the race because of Dave. How? Well, Mark is much better than me in very lively telling the whole story in every amusing detail.

But at least I dare to sketch the scene where in an extremely challenging situation for the team, where there had been uncertainties about the best race strategy due to very changeable weather conditions …

  • Dave the bus driver felt the same commitment and responsibility for the team’s success as the pilot or any pit team member, where
  • he had a quite pragmatic idea, and he unexpectedly spoke up sharing his idea to get the latest weather forecast by simply driving with a moped into the direction the weather was coming from,
  • he translated his idea into action, despite the fact that it had been refused as being silly by the team lead, and
  • after being clearly rejected again after his first attempt to report changing weather via radio while sitting in the countryside a couple of kilometers away, he took the risk of being fired because he knew that his action might help the team to win the race.

Finally, the team lead buckled, adjusted the race strategy based on Dave’s report, as a result of that the race was won, and today most F1 teams have their “Daves” out in the fields during a race.

This is a real-life story about being team by including everybody and gaining lived commitment … and win.

This is also a real-life story about a “silly idea” becoming innovation.

But first of all, for me this is an amazing story about courage.

  1. Dave had the courage to speak up and share his idea.
  2. Dave had the courage to give his idea a try despite meeting with a refusal by his management.
  3. Dave had the courage to directly exert influence on the race without being a member of the core team and despite being smiled at.
  4. Dave had the courage to adhere to his idea while encountering heavy headwind.

So, what do I learn from Dave, and by the way from may others who made a change in history?

If you are deeply convinced that something is going to make a difference … keep your tail up, fight for it, make it happen!

Neither the pleasers nor the skeptics are making a team the winner. The Daves do.

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The true reason why younger candidates are favored

If you challenge an existing preference for hiring younger workers over e.g. “best agers” (50+), you get a series of arguments which initially sound somehow reasonable.

  • Younger candidates have more energy and higher productivity.
  • Younger candidates bring along more recent expert knowledge due to their contemporary professional training/university education … and thereby deliver higher quality.
  • Younger candidates are cheaper.
  • Younger candidates are less resistent to change.
  • In an aging society it is more future-oriented to hire younger candidates and develop them internally on the long-term.

As non-involved I can dare to say: all those are dumb stereotypes … if not lies!

 

The “younger is more productive” myth

It has been repeatedly investigated and proven hat “best agers” on average do show at least a similar productivity and level of achievements while typically being more efficient and delivering higher quality. No more to say.

 

The “younger is cheaper” myth

Is it? I would like to challenge this assertion by stating that the average “best ager” achieves more with less energy and in less time. He compensates youthful freshness with experience and beneficial learnings from the past. So, I dare to say that a complete and honest calculation will give at least the same if not lower costs for the “best ager”.

And by the way, cheap or valuable, you always get what you pay for!

 

The “younger provides better knowledge” myth

Yes, sure, the expert knowledge a mid-20s university leaver brings along is more recent. But …

  1. By whom did they get it? From “best agers” being their trainer/teacher, am I right or am I wrong?
  2. Blank knowledge from professional training or university is by far not enough for real life success and best practice. “Best agers” typically provide expert knowledge plus experiences from years of daily working including highly valuable experiences and learnings the youngster simply miss. The overall level of current and real-life knowledge is much higher with the “best ager”.

And by the way, it is impertinent to generally insinuate that older colleagues do not continuously develop their expert knowledge to the state-of-the-art level.

 

The “seniors are more resistant to change” myth

To my observation, more senior colleagues are not above average resistant to change but in many cases even drive it. And I was involved in quite a few change projects/processes. No, senior colleagues do more dare speaking up for stupid changes and dumb implementations … where many  youngsters just follow like sheep. For me this level of commitment by senior colleagues never has been a bug but a feature. And in most cases it was highly beneficial for the whole change project.

 

The “younger provides more long-term benefit” myth

Especially the more promising youngsters have a much higher tendency to switch their job if not the company due to career aspirations. Exception proves the rule and there are certainly companies which do a proper good job in developing and keeping their staff. But I dare to say that many companies will benefit longer from a hired “best ager” staying 10-15 years than of a “±30 ager” leaving for the next career step after 3-4 years.

 

The true reason

I think there is another important point which is typically less mentioned but more influencing the preference for younger candidates within a hiring process.

Younger workers are much easier to influence and to manipulate. They challenge instructions and decisions by their line manager (who is also their hiring manager) much less. And just to avoid any misunderstanding: to my opinion this is bad, at least with  advanced, innovative, forward-thinking companies. But unfortunately there is a fatal correlation between leader quality and the tendency to hire team members which are better qualified than oneself.

“Best agers” are not more difficult to lead. But they are more resistant to bad leadership. So they are less likely hired by bad leaders who cannot stand to be constructively challenged.

Check it! Just watch the leaders in your own working environment. Which of them would you rate as better leaders and which as worse? And what is the average team age of the better … and what the average team age of the poor leaders? *

You see, what I mean!


* OK, and please kindly ignore any constitutional bias, e.g. by type of job or team where the average age is unavoidably lower. 

Do not let your customer doing your QC

I call it the “Microsoft principle” … and it is a mess. For many years, Microsoft is quite famous for delivering half-baked software, which is subsequently improved by patches and “service packs” based on customer findings. Microsoft lets its customers do the quality control (QC) for them.

 

Change of scenery. A couple of years ago, I attended a lean processes workshop. To make a long story short, the resulting “optimized” lean process basically included an abandonment of the pre-delivery inspection process step and a shift of the final QC to the customer. To be fair, some new QC cross-checks were included at handover interfaces within the process … but the proof that the product is finally OK was factually handed over.

I was surprised finding myself alone with speaking up and insisting: “this is simply crap!

At this point I need to admit, that my horizon of experience had been different from the others. Before joining the pharmaceutical company (I was working for at that time), I had had my own little service business for about 10 years. So, I knew by heart, that customers typically wish if not clearly expect to get a product of reliable high quality delivered for the money they pay. And I think, they can expect to get the same. Also I myself do. As a service provider it had always been a wonderful and tremendously satisfying experience getting customer’s feedback that he is vice versa satisfied and happy with a high quality, error-free delivery. I tell you, it is really great to enjoy your own appreciated product.

 

Certainly, a customer needs provide an explicit confirmation of proper delivery which by design requires some kind of  cross-check on his side. But this is not what I am talking about. Ideally he should not find anything. At least no careless mistakes or faulty deliveries which typically would have been identified and rejected by a proper pre-delivery QC.

Change of scenery again. I recently worked with an agency where I typically had to check every delivery several times. In my view, I was doing their work. And we are talking about mistakes which were obvious and would have been solved by a simple pre-delivery cross-check at the agency before reaching my desk. And I found myself asking, why I am doing a part of the job I am actually paying for? I clearly expect (just in case any current of future collaborating agency might read this) a reliable, rock solid product which is finally QCed already before landing in my inbox. This agency was simply annoying me.

Would this be the basis of a long fruitful collaboration?

I do not really think so.

 

Altogether, delivering properly QCed products might be better for business than being “over-lean”. Do not play Microsoft until you are in the same monopoly position.

Satisfy by quality … and enjoy satisfaction and success!