Wednesday, April 27, 2022

To command, or is it just a comment?

Now, the word 'command' is probably a no-no among many. For those who dissent from 'command', it's more likely all about synergy and shared commitment, etc. 

Can PM work without a culture of 'command'?
But on projects of any scale, and businesses of scale, there will always be people 'on the commanding heights', in a command situation, and with command responsibility. 

Don't believe it? Check in with the C-suite and see what they say.
So, that said, we arrive at today's topic: If on the 'commanding heights', is a word spoken always a command, or can it be merely a comment? Indeed, are 'commanders' allowed the freedom and informality to just make a comment? 

Which is which is sometimes vexing, but does it matter?
Actually, Yes, it can matter a lot. Consider some of these situations and outcomes:
  • A PM is not promoted for lack of 'command presence' in their communications. What is that? See below.
  • 'Commands' are given (in the civilian world) but for lack of follow-though the permanent bureaucracy all but ignores them
  • A casual comment is understood -- in context -- to mean "get it done"
  • A casual comment is misunderstood to be a command, when it reality it was just a casual comment

So what's going on here?

Command presence: You know it when you see it. A confident aura that invites -- rather than demands -- followership. Obviously, no empty suit!

Sloppy communication. The "one in command" is careless about a comment, not understanding or observing the reaction that surrounds it

Underlings too eager to please. These guys make the most of reflected and proximate power -- power and authority absorbed simply because they are in close proximity to the throne.

Bureaucrats understand the impracticality or incompleteness of the command.  And so it is ignored or modified on the spot. Actually, this is a very common consequence of "flow down of goals and objectives" and also of assuming operating detail will be filled in below by the people who actually have to do the work.
So, don't be surprised to see how a command actually materializes!

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