Some of you would have heard this panchatantra (old moral stories of Indian origin) tale of how a Brahmin(a person belonging to a class of Hindu priests) with a goat gets fooled by a set of mischief mongers working together. Each one of them encounters the Brahmin taking turns and tell him that what he is taking along is a dog and not a goat, until he falls for the trap and gives away the goat.When I first came across the story as a kid, I just couldn’t understand the stupidity of the Brahmin, nor the moral of the story – “how could someone be so foolish that if he hears a repeated bluff, one falls for it even at the cost of sacrificing one’s own judgement”. It wasn’t clear to me at that time, that there is always an element of bargain and relative prioritization constantly taxing the mind, that makes it easy to believe untruth and join the band wagon of mass appeal, rather than take the pain of getting down to the detail, (often standing alone) and discover the truth for oneself. “What if I stand alone with this and end up being a fool?”, is a tough bargain to face vis-a-vis “these are my people and hence they may be telling me the truth…”
And fast forward several years into the real world of “bluff by design”, this story makes phenomenal sense. Okay I have been a bit harsh with the previous line, I did not intend to state that people bluff on purpose, but over a prolonged period of either “consciously allowing deviations” (from what is supposed to be the right way of doing something) or “consciously overlooking deviations” (under the pretext of ‘its fine for now’) “bluff by design” creeps into the system where perceptions take over reality and “genuine goats start to appear like dogs” and vice versa – with all due respect to both the cohabitants of the planet. In standard terms, I am referring to the “errors of commission” and “errors of omission” that creep in for lack of someone (or an instituted approach) constantly getting down to the details, challenging the “stated obvious” and discovering a better insight. (With a big assumption that competence is not in question, to simplify the discussion).
And then there are jargons/newer interventions of technology/methodology, which add as catalysts to chaos (in an environment of “bluff by design” only and not in an ideal world!) in the absence of – 1. CMEs (context matter experts) who could unravel the current bluffyness and apply the jargonism appropriately, and 2. Good managers that drive execution with result orientation.
If you come across some of the following or similar :
– a lot of green weekly reports leading to a “sudden” and “unforeseen” situation that is making the project crawl to a halt
– a lot of “leadership vision” about how a new technology is going to solve the world problems for you without a plan of execution that takes current context into account
– repeated complaints/strong opinions without objectivity or without being tied to end goals of the group
depending on what role you play, you may be gently being subjected to/subjecting someone else to the “genuine goat syndrome” (GGS). These behaviors are not always backed by a malicious intent, but usually settled down due to a lack of constant pruning/coaching/questioning as counter behaviors. By asking next level questions and helping the system (a person or a team) gently take the painful path towards discovering the detail, GGS can be delayed or avoided. More so if you are in a position of power (possessing a goat that is desirable, moral-talefully speaking) the propensity of those around you to subject you to GGS is quite high.
Some of the major transformation debacles in the industry occurred with someone (a decision maker) not doing enough due diligence (falling prey to GGS from a product vendor/marketeer for instance – “what you have is wrong, I will give you the right one”) at a key decision point and leading the entire organization on a wrong path. And then this goes in as a chain effect – “if my boss believes that it is a dog, it must be so…” and then entire unit runs with making the decision right, instead of questioning the hypothesis.
So for what it’s worth, sticking to fundamentals (which begs the necessity of being clear with what ones fundamentals should be in a given role and having such people around) is always a great idea instead of settling down with jargons or subjectivity of the system. Practicing the culture of challenging/questioning/tolerating a feed-loop-back certainly helps delay GGS.