15 November 2006

Why I Haven't Been Fired...

While I was at Death Valley with the Association of Managers of Innovation, someone asked a wonderful question after my presentation: "Why haven't you been fired yet?" I've been thinking about that one a lot, and I'd like to share my answers - or at least, my best guess at an explanation for how I've managed to avoid getting the axe.

1) Luck. I'm genuinely lucky, and can't take much credit for many of the good things that have happened to me. I seem to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time, meeting the right people, etc. Tom Peters explains the dynamics of getting lucky much better than I can.

2) I've had some really great bosses (you know who you are). I refuse to be badly managed, and when I have a bad boss, I've managed to move on rather quickly. It's my life, so I try to make it a point to hire good bosses and fire bad ones. Which leads to number three...

3) Moving Target Theory. I don't stay in one place very long, partly because of the nature of my business, and partly by design. Moving Target Theory is my buddy Quaid's attempt to quantify and define the mechanism which has saved our butts on more than one occasion.

4) Great customers. When the chain of command is throwing daggers my way, it's helped to have customers who were willing to step in and say "This guy is helping save lives, rescue hostages, etc, etc."

5) The Rogue Program Manager's Art of War. More wisdom from my buddy Quaid, these 8-and-a-half axioms form the basis of our manual of arms for the Global War on Bureaucracy, and they help keep my biscuits out of the fire.

6) The truth is, I have been fired. Well, not really, but I once had an annual performance review significantly downgraded by a powerful dude (my boss's boss's boss's boss...). He was unhappy about the fact that a different division had recruited me away from his division. I am prouder of that review than almost any other. There's something profoundly cool about being punished for doing the right thing, and that review is a professional battle scar I carry gladly.

7) Paradoxically, I can't be fired. Sure, I can be removed from a job, passed over for promotion, kicked out of the service, court-martialed, etc... but short of putting me in jail, I will always be able to continue with my career, regardless of the specifics of my job. To paraphrase Obi Wan, firing me would only make me stronger.

1 comment:

Gabe said...

Dude, thanks for reminding me. One axiom I think you should add or expound upon: how to keep motivated to continue the fight when it's only you...when you're absolutely surrounded by people who care more about being fired than doing the right thing. How do you keep your perspective and not get sucked into the void? It's very difficult not to get caught up in this syndrome when it pervades the organization.