Stand Up – What the Flobots Teach Us About Company Culture

We shall not be moved
Except by a child with no socks and shoes

We shall not be moved
Except by a woman dying from a loss of food

It is not enough to ask for more. More is not enough. For a sufficient vision to exist, you have to envision the end. Then, and only then, can you imagine what steps you need to take to get there. If you pick out the next steps without an end in mind, you will only take baby steps towards mediocrity. I find this theme recur with respect to both political parties and company culture.

In politics, one party or the other will say we need to raise taxes higher and poverty needs to be lower. Rent needs to be lower and employment needs to be higher. There’s no clear definition of the end, no vision at all. There only exists the baby steps that will lead toward a lukewarm society full of discontented voters. What is the right number? What is the exact right amount of inflation? If you don’t know the answer, then I don’t trust that you can ever be satisfied. With no clear goal, you will never be successful, ever.

In company culture, the executives will have a town hall meeting with the employees saying that revenue needs to go up, and turn around needs to go down. Production needs to increase and quality defects needs to go down. The metrics are clear, but the goal is not. What results is inevitably a series of compromises between management and employees about what counts as “good enough”, towards “better”. This company will be wrecked from the inside out by uninspired employees and management who feel like they are beating mules to move.

I belong to a fraternity and was part of the recruitment team one year. We had a goal of recruiting 10 people. We had a clear metric and a clear goal. Unfortunately, as we got closer to the deadline, and not closer to our goal of 10 people, we compromised and lowered our expectations. We moved the goal posts so that we could make it. At the end of the year we made it to the lowered goal, and we celebrated until one of our wiser members reminded the rest of us that, we in fact did not make it. We squeaked by. We compromised.

Do not compromise. Create a vision with a measurable metric and hold to it tightly.