THE WELCH COMPANY
I apologize for any bad impression that may have resulted from submitting the notes of our discussion earlier today, and suggesting that you examine notes of a discussion with Tom Landauer. I certainly got the impression from our second call this evening that you were disappointed about these and/or other suggested actions to review the record. It is unclear whether such reaction was from presuming to impose further interaction on Asilomar in general, or from providing the text for review to support such efforts. In any case, it might be a helpful dimension of your talk at Asilomar to spell out the executive mind set that impacts management communications. See what you think.
Some months ago, possibly a year ago, I met with a Director of something (maybe "Controls" or MIS, since this guy was looking at computer tools and talked about CPM and Cost Control), who said he could never explain Communication Metrics to his boss who was a Vice President. I suggested he submit the SDS record that explains the ideas and methodology. The Director said the record has too much detail. He said executives are incapable of understanding detail. I suggested that many executives are interested in improving earnings and want to know about the details needed to do that. Many executives are former Directors, General Managers, and Managers of this that and the other. They know that if decisions about the big picture and the bottom line are not connected
My reasoning did not succeed with this Director. He was afraid to submit the SDS record, and to permit me to explain the ideas to his Vice President. As you point out people have difficulty believing the SDS methodology can improve earnings, since their experience dealing with executives is that the kind of detail SDS is aimed at managing is antithetical to organizational culture. An important aspect of your presentation at Asilomar might be to discuss this cultural imperative in light of the changing environment of the New World Order, i.e., the Information Highway. We not only need a faster, better, cheaper way to make connections so that we can retrieve critical knowledge when it is needed, there is also a cultural change needed in the role of executives, described as a broader vision in the New World Order... paper. This may fit your view of the executive role to establish a vision.
David Vannier mentioned the other day that executives at Intel rely on the feelings they get about the level of confidence and sincerity of the speaker, because there isn't enough time to understand the content of what is actually said. This connotes people too busy to deal with details, but it also reflects a cultural schema of the "boss." People who struggle to become executives may well feel a sense of isolation once they achieve that goal, since others are aiming to please them or replace them. Measuring intentions becomes critical, and of course one aspect of this is judging sincerity and confidence. This may become a consuming exercise of Machiavellian proportion that eventually leads to rejection of substance in the need to maintain formalities of obeisance. Thus, the responsibilities and exegencies of exercising authority may change the orientation of the person. Details are no longer important. Intentions are critical and these are judged not from what is said but how it is delivered. These fundamentals of hierarchy are likely genetically imposed from eons of community life. Is there, however, a Malthusian end-game, described in the New World Order ... paper, that augurs for a mechanism to overcome executive hubris, in order to avoid the risk of management imploding on itself from a morass of errors?
Perhaps the fact that this practice did not survive the test of time, indicates less that Roman Emporers ran out of Christians, than that the model is not conducive to effective leadership. The US President does not have such an aide. The executive at the firm cited above did not have an aide. The military still seems to use this practice in modified form. A general will typically have a colonel accompany him as an aide, often taking notes during meetings. George Shultz and others have reported in books about the Reagan Administration that Reagan sought to enlist the service of General Vernon Walters to sit in on key meetings so he could later prepare notes solely from his recollection. The General was thought to have a special skill of being able to remember what was said without taking notes during the meeting, and Reagan wanted this because some people will not express themselves frankly if notes are being taken, yet the President needed to capture what was said in order to effectively apply it. General Walters rejected this assignment on the grounds that he did not want to be a Communications Manager, merely because he had the ability to do it and no one else did. Some attribute the Iran Contra fiasco to the fact that Reagan was never able to fill the role of capturing the record with a leadership aide.
In any case, there may be some material here that fits what you have in mind to explain the need for more analysis at the executive level, as a result of reducing the ranks of executives and mid-level tactical managers. Your idea
THE WELCH COMPANY