Day Five : Jerry Maguire

My 35 Day Life #ReThink explained through Hollywood Blockbusters.

I’ve always loved the move Jerry Maguire. It’s a feel-good story about reconnecting with your own conscience, and actually having the courage to evolve. The main character doesn’t like what he has become, what his organization has become, so he sends a company wide memo with his ideas for a new future, his mission statement. To us in the audience, it feels less like he could actually spark any changes in his organization and more like Felix Cortez burning all his ships after reaching the new world in order prevent his own retreat! Forcing yourself to follow your own conscience, very admirable and movie-worthy. After sends it out, he immediately gets fired. Which gives me a brief moment of pause in writing this … just kidding … or am I ?

I’ve spend the past week or so trying to figure out why I couldn’t get people in my organization to take on more calculated risks, even after I had submitted what I thought was more than enough empirical evidence to #MythBust the idea that innovation is inherently bad. Not like, case study, white paper, or theoretical/academic analysis evidence - but real, substantial change that was not followed by any signs of the apocalypse!

So why the continuing resistance? I don’t know, why do people smoke when there is a giant WARNING on the side of the carton that it may cause cancer? Maybe the comforts of our habits can blind us to their future consequences. Everyone has their own story. And while as individuals we are all permitted to make our own choices, as an organization the choices we make are not our own. Authority should have been granted to us with the expectation that we make our choices based on the best interest of the organization. Beyond that, the expectation should exist that we use our authority, in a timely manner.

So what if the reason we aren’t efficiently becoming the organization we say we want to be, is that we are giving the wrong authorities out to the wrong individuals. Those who ignore the warning signs, those who don’t make choices in the best interest of the greater organization. The ones we all know are out there, and we are all afraid to confront. 

But what if there are also some that don’t even know how to use authority? What if they were raised in a system that didn’t work that way? We often set rules and create processes in order to eliminate the risk that comes with delegating true authority. Everyone must follow the rules. There is no need to understand why. There is no authority given to make choices. Operating like that is not going to get us where we want to be. Neither is handing out authority like a little league team, where everyone gets to play 2 innings no matter how they are performing. 

My Jerry Maguire-style mission statement is this : right size the authorities you pass down based on each individual’s alignment to the organizational conscience you are trying to achieve. Some will get more, some will get less. But at least everyone will know where we stand, and the make-up of your organization can self-correct. In short, ‘help me, help you’, or let me go …

Tomorrow : The Mighty Ducks

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  • Joseph Murphy