Three phrases

I’m a bit of a curmudgeon about business buzzwords and buzz-phrases, but I’ll offer three phrases that seem pretty solid to me:

1) Management by Wandering Around

M.B.W.A. used to be in vogue in the corporate world. Its fashionability might have faded a bit in more recent times. Anyway, faded or not, I’m a fan of the idea, or at least a fan of the idea as I interpret it.

The notion is that managers should make a habit of uprooting themselves from their desks so they can wander around the company spaces a bit.

The best managers I knew, including presidents and CEOs, were doing M.B.W.A. before it was a buzz-phrase. They just had the natural inclination to keep their heads out of the office bubble. Furthermore, they enjoyed a little bit of random interaction with people.

Not all managers warmed to the concept, though. The more bureaucratically inclined, especially those who were maladroit socially, recoiled in horror at the notion of being left to their own devices around the workers, the various spaces (warehouses, etc.), and the retail branches.

It was no use pushing the reluctant managers out the door to force them to do some M.B.W.A. That’s because the reluctant types seemed to have a knack for making a bad impression with anyone they encountered. It takes a little charisma and poise not to unsettle workers if they think they’re being snooped on. But snooping wasn’t the intent of the technique. To the contrary, it was actually a good opportunity to build some goodwill, which was a nice side-effect, but that wasn’t the intent of the technique, either.

So what was the intent? It was merely to wander around and enhance one’s general awareness. “Awareness of what” I’ve been asked. Well, I answer, awareness of whatever you become aware of that merits awareness.

2) “Success is where preparation meets opportunity.”

One of my friends used to say this all the time. It made sense decades ago, and it still makes sense today.

One challenge is that we don’t always know where the opportunities are going to be, so there aren’t any neon signs telling us how to prepare for them.

But the fact is that some people are always studying and building their skills because they like doing so, even if there’s no immediate payoff for the effort. By contrast, other people only put forth effort when they clock in at work, and they stop that effort when they clock out.

The world needs both kinds of people, so it’s not a question of which way is better, it’s just a question of personal preference.

3) “Don’t cry over spilled milk.”

In business terms, spilled milk is called a “sunk cost.” It’s money that is gone and irrecoverable, so it should not have a role when making current or future decisions. For example, taking a defective product to market just because you shoveled a lot of money into its development isn’t such a hot idea.

That sort of decision would be called the “sunk cost fallacy” in texts on finance and in texts on economics. It’s a standard topic. There’s not really much to say about it, but human nature is often oriented in the opposite direction. This is one reason that people are often tempted to stick with bad decisions; they feel invested in the situation and can’t let go.

If I had to think of a possible exception to this rule, it might be in the realm of taxes, where past costs might influence the timing of a future transaction in which a net gain or loss will be realized. That’s the only potential exception I can think of right now. If you know of any others, feel free to send them along.

If you do send something along, please don’t expect a reply in the next three hours. I won’t be at my desk. I’m testing a new technique. I call it, “Lunch By Wandering Around.” Something tells me I’m a natural at this.

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at EdStephensJr.com. His column runs every Friday.

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