Talk is Cheap

We live in the age of experts. There is an expert for every topic. We have a large number of experts at our disposal, especially in management. Who actually is an expert sometimes remains in doubt. A humorous definition is:

“An expert is a specialist who has traveled from more than 200 miles afar.”

Talk is cheap. Getting things done is not.

As indispensable as professional expertise has become in many cases, unfortunately another phenomenon seems to go hand in hand with it: experts without responsibility.

The expert claims that he only knows his stuff. Therefore, he cannot be held responsible for the implementation and the consequences of his expertise. Yeah, of course. But who is responsible?

Now let’s imagine a meeting of all the functional experts of a company: finance expert, marketing expert, production expert, HR expert, and above all not to forget the IT expert, etc. etc.

If all of these experts only see the task from their point of view, then there is no overarching, creative authority. Because the individual views do not take into account the effects on the entire system of the organization. And that’s actually what matters.

Some of the dysfunctional examples of expertise without accountability are:

  • Complex, global supply chains that break down under their own intransparency
  • IT systems with logistics algorithms are so intricate that nobody understands the process flow anymore
  • Brilliant technical innovations that are developed without considering the market needs
  • MBAs with sophisticated, strategic Excel models that the real world unfortunately doesn’t follow
  • Highly complex financial instruments that become financial weapons of mass destruction
  • Complex matrix structures where clear line responsibility has become opaque

The consequence of this expertise without accountability is a large number of opinions and solutions. What’s missing is taking responsibility for the whole. Of course, it’s convenient for the so-called experts; they can sit back and pass on the blame for failure.

The solution to the increasing differentiation into specialist areas must be improved cooperation between the various experts, where responsibility for the decision, for the implementation and for the consequences are clearly determined. Because success can only be achieved through responsible implementation. As the saying goes, “Talk is cheap.”

Here it helps to follow a set of tried and tested principles for goal achievement:

  1. Clear roles, goals and responsibilities
  2. Effective communication and collaboration
  3. Proven methods for making decision and solving conflicts and problems
  4. Clear goals and measures with high accountability & deep learning
  5. Willingness to act and try things out

Ultimately, no expert, no matter how lauded, can replace a general manager who uses common sense, based on his/her experience and values, to achieve results.

And, as Peter Drucker said, “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; Leadership is defined by results, not attributes.”

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