At a discussion panel at the WeDo user group in 2010, talkRA blogger Eric Priezkalns pointed out the value of imagination in RA. Podcast of the same panel session is here. He also stated that when he started out in RA, he had hoped that more people would transition out of RA and go on to business leadership but that has not been the case.
Well, I also held this hope at the beginning of my stint in RA. In fact, at the time, I was sure it was a ticket to understanding business, getting a crash course in learning negotiation and persuasion skills and thinking in x dimensions where x is greater than 3. To my mind, the result would be an esteemed brigade of new generation business leaders who are well balanced and adequately exposed, having worked with all functions of the telco. These guys would have gained a level of insight that no MBA can provide and would sniff pitfalls that were miles ahead in the business landscape. They would instinctively know when to take a big risk and when to be conservative because they have been witness to horror stories and success stories.
I must say I have been equally disappointed. I can hardly count peers who have transitioned from RA into taking their “rightful” positions. I cannot help but wonder, what went wrong? Is this as it should be? So I put on my sack cloth and lay among ashes the whole of last weekend, pleading with the gods of RA to show me what went wrong. At the end of my fast, this seer came to me and showed me the error of our ways. Below please find a summary of what ails the RA fraternity.
One Track Mind
Some of the RA practitioners I have worked with were good in one area and very weak in other areas. Nature always self-balances but human beings are very poor in this. The genius kid of data analytics will demonstrate zero skills in process reviews. He may even disdain anything that requires looking at a process. The process review professor does not like getting his hands dirty with really cold and mostly ugly data. Well, I think business leadership requires people who are not afraid to engage all levers to achieve forward motion, including the uncomfortable gears. We have done poorly in this regard and we have only ourselves to blame.
Safe until Senility
When you know one thing, you want to keep doing it and getting better at it. Do we ever think of taking the risk of changing how we do it? This, in my view, is possibly the one major reason a number of people who started out in RA still work in RA. We may all profess the love of RA…oh, how we don’t do it for the money….it’s the adrenalin rush that comes with catching the big one and plugging it…blah blah blah. But perhaps we are just afraid of venturing out into the uncharted waters. Meanwhile, the cowboys from Marketing are beating us to the pie (no offence to all the good folks who work in esteemed Marketing functions).
Bearers of bad news
We seem to have perfected the art of ferreting out where the business is losing. And this is good – somebody needs to speak up when the company is losing. Trouble is, when people only know you as the corporate whiner who walks around with the smell of revenue losses following him, it becomes very difficult to see you in another role except that of a glorified janitor. It becomes laughable to see you as a leader in any form. A chap who is an undertaker by profession will always have few friends however affable he may be – undertakers who read this blog will testify to this. Is it time we packaged ourselves as the evangelists of solutions rather than being harbingers of horror and havoc? Even more than that, proactive prevention of leakages may provide an opportunity for us to show the business the way rather than waiting until the big $ is lost.
The Chase of the CDR and the Relish of Relics
Mike Willet once asked us to spare a thought for the poor CDR. I agree that we should also spare a thought for our fascination with the CDR. This has gone on for too long. Technology has changed (and will change even more), scenarios have changed, margins have become more important, cost management is assuming more importance but we are still in the chase of the CDR. Not too many years ago, I was in college and we used to impress girls by walking around wearing trousers that were almost falling off our waists, chewing gum 24/7, speaking in the most contorted of slang, keeping long hair and listening to Walkmans and Discmans. This would prove you are “with it”. In my father’s day, I suppose they walked around with gramophones. (To be honest the kind of girls impressed by such stuff were often a tad dumb and you would find out after some time. However, the point is: it was working). I cannot hazard a guess as to what tricks today’s youngsters have up their sleeves but I do know they must have changed tack. But in our domain most of us are too stuck tinkering with RA tools, doing UNIX scripts and spotting the odd pattern. We thus never look up. And in the meantime, business swiftly moves on.