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  • Paul Rutherford

THINKING - CRITICAL!


Four months since I last blogged; four months of Client activities, family milestones, personal ill-health, and - oh yes - the world politically turning upside down.

Of course, at the time the reason for not posting wasn't as clear. That's the reality of explanations; they all make perfect sense after the fact.

So, for future reference, let me go on the record to explain why I am dusting off my keyboard and re-starting the blog now:

It's a recent LinkedIn posting from someone I call LG:

Just spoke to a BDM who was removed from one company for non performance to becoming the top performer at the next company, go figure: The moral to the story is failing BDM's is nine times out of ten the fault of the strategy or tactics of the company not the BDM. BDM turnover is generally not a quality of staff issue but time to look at the management.

After multiple proofreadings of the above, I am confident that it's verbatim of the original posting. Accuracy is important for all that follows, taking apart each sentence, the overall structure, and the readership response to date.

While I sincerely hope this will be useful for you (after all, that's the purpose of all Optimentum postings), I'm sure it will be helpful for me too - to defuse the irritation that inflates and the depression that decends each time I read it.

As Mary Poppins will say, let's begin at the beginning:

Just - To start as we mean to go on; this is going to include some 'close reading', dealing with individual components, as well as the overall message and impression it creates. Hence, I'm highlighting the first word.

In this context, does 'just' mean the event was recent (just-in-time), was partial (just about), or the sole action (just this and no more)?

Just spoke to a BDM - whatever the meaning of 'just', the action is clear; LG addressed a Business Development Manager. He didn't speak with the BDM, nor did he have a conversation, nor engage in a dialogue.

He 'spoke to' the BDM - like teachers speak to pupils.

who was removed from one company for non performance - Well, if LG had just 'spoke to' the BDM, how does he know (because he hasn't been listening). And if he does know, at least he could hyphenate the negative 'non-performance'.

Yes, you can call me a pedant. If that's the cost of seeking clarity, so be it.

to becoming the top performer at the next company - Putting aside the random use of the present participle 'becoming', had the BDM had been moved from one company in order to become the top performer? Or became top performer because he'd been moved? What is the cause and what's the effect?

And what does 'top performer' mean, anyway? Top business developer (value of new opportunities), top revenue generator, top year-on-year growth, top all-round good guy? A timeframe and a metric would make this more meaningful.

The other word that bothers me in this clause is 'next'.'The next company' implies one in a series, and the BDM may still be there, still delivering the top performance. Or s/he may have moved on to another opportunity.

The adjective 'current' rather than 'next' would resolve that quandary.

go figure - which is exactly what I'm attempting.

The moral to the story is - There's that word 'to' again (as in 'spoke to'). Usually, the phrase is 'the moral of the story', implying that the story contains a lesson for us to extract, whereas 'the moral to' implies that LG is about to project his values onto an event.

And why a moral at all? The moral of a story teaches us how to behave in the world (from the Latin mores, meaning habit). Putting aside whether the 23-word description is really a story, what behaviour can be enhanced?

failing BDM's is nine times out of ten the fault of the strategy or tactics of the company not the BDM - I checked The Chicago Manual of Style, which confirms NOT using an apostrophe to form the plural of capital letters used as words or abbreviations that contain no interior periods.

Therefore BDM's are really BDMs.

Far more uncertain is whether 'failing' in this context is a verb or an adjective. Bear with me:

If it's a verb, then the (act of) failing BDMs is the fault of the strategy etc, because the act is singular. By comparison, if it's an adjective, then the collective of (non-performing) failing BDMs are the fault of the strategy.

We'll come back to 'nine times out of ten' in a moment.

BDM turnover is generally not a quality of staff issue but time to look at the management - it's not the quality of BDMs, it's the quality of senior people. So if it's that obvious, why do stellar BDMs join the organization (and its dubious management) in the first place? Or to go back to the previous sentence in the post, why haven't the faultlines in 'the strategy or tactics of the company' flashed emergency red lights before the BDM signed-on?

Look, I know that Business Development - shaking trees and watering new business seeds - can be really hard work. You need to be incredibly resilient, deal with multiple rejections, and be capable of kissing a lot of frogs.

BDM is a tough gig.That's not up for question.

Instead, the reason for taking apart the LinkedIn post is to consider the thinking that underpins it. Or rather, the absence of thinking.

LG starts with a summary of a single exchange. In the second sentence, he states his conclusion: 'nine times out of ten' the fault is with the strategy or the tactics.

At the time of writing this, 4,700 LinkedIn readers have 'Liked' it and 400 have posted a note, the vast majority in agreement.

From a single example, the moral is that for 90% of the time failure can be blamed on others.

That might be a default human trait, but through a lens of critical thinking, the statements just don't hold together.

The late educator Richard Paul wrote:

"Both managers and workers need to learn how to begin to think in a new way: we must learn how to discipline our thinking to a new level of clarity, precision, relevance, depth , and coherence... We must each take it upon ourselves to continuously upgrade our reasoning skills, our critical reading skills, our ability and propensity to enter into the points of view of others...

"We must sooner of later abandon the traditional attempt to teach our fellow citizens what to think. Such efforts cannot prepare us for the real world we must, in fact, face. We must concentrate instead on teaching ourselves how to think, thus freeing us to think for ourselves, critically, fairmindedly, and deeply."

As I hope you can see from LG's LinkedIn posting, we still have a long way to go.

After all, Richard Paul wrote his wise words in1993. And I think we're going backwards.

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