Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Science vs. Magic

I was listening to a Dale Carnegie tape about leadership styles (It doesn't matter which one. Buy anything you can find and listen to it at least three times). They talked about two primary leadership styles: Magician and Scientist.

A magician is very charismatic (or thinks he is) and will tell you that his job is more art than science. He can't document or codify what he does because it's done differently every time. And the key element is the magician.

A scientist, by comparison, has a process that can be written, analyzed, replicated, and improved upon. If she documents everything correctly, any competent scientist can do the job.

Sadly, our business is overrun with people who act like magicians. These are the people who tell clients "It's all very complicated. Everyone has these problems. The only way to fix it is to format your hard drive." They talk to clients in techno-speak, thinking the client will conclude that it's all just too complicated for normal people to understand.

By far the worst computer consultant I ever met was a guy who called himself "The Computer Wizard." How many F's in buffoon?

I don't mean to insult all the consultants who have businesses called wizards and magicians and gurus. But I'm on record that you need to rename your business if you want to be taken seriously. See http://smallbizthoughts.blogspot.com/2006/09/what-in-name.html

Here's the deal: If you've moved out of your parents' basement and got your own checking account, it's time to have a grown-up name for your business.
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What's the most important thing that Magicians do wrong? They have no process.

Which means they can never fix the same problem twice in the same manner.

And they don't set up two servers the same way.

And they don't document everything because . . . [insert your excuse here].

Um. I mean they don't document anything.

What's the difference between Magic and Science?

Magic involves the magician and the audience. With a different magician, or a different audience, you get different results. Just as a necromancer spreads the guts of chicken across the floor, a computer magician spreads a server across the table. And both tell a story. And half the time the story is about why the magician can't help, and the result was inevitable.

Meanwhile, the Scientist examines the problem. The scientist defines the problem. After all, if you don't know what the problem is, how can you fix it? How will you know when it's fixed?

Did you ever call Microsoft Tech support? The first thing they do is to define the problem. Why? Because they can't sit on the phone for the next week fixing every little thing that's wrong with you server. If your issue is with SharePoint permissions, they'll fix that. If you need help mounting an Exchange store, they'll help with that.

Think about this: If you want to be big and successful and have more money than 2/3rd of the countries in the world combined, take a lesson from MS: define the problem before you start working on it.

Scientists also make a plan. They create a logical sequence of steps and then proceed to step through them. That way they'll keep straight what worked and what didn't. They won't troubleshoot in circles, simply doing the same thing over and over hoping it will work.

I may have mentioned this before: Go read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. NOW.

Back? Good.

So, what you learned there is that franchises rarely go out of business, in part because they have standard operating procedures that can be repeated again and again.

There really is a "right" way to do things. You may need to keep fine-tuning the process. You may need to add more and more detail as time goes by. But the more you rely on process, and the less you rely on magic, the more successful you'll be.

Besides: Scientists get to take vacations. Success does not require them to be personally involved, and the process can be learned by someone else.

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