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WYSIATI

Updated: Jan 18

"Unless you are educated in metaphor, you are not safe to be let loose in the world." — Robert Frost

 

12/07/2023


Every human has a tipping point where a complex new situation triggers a desire to surround themselves with something familiar. Three-year-olds turn to a Teddy bear. Whenever I visit New York, I remove some potential stress by staying at the same hotel and eating breakfast at the same restaurant. Such familiarity is a comforting respite, giving us head space to contemplate the day's adventures. 

Unfortunately, opting for familiarity can also put us into self-imposed holes where the more we dig, the harder it is to climb out. Daniel Kahneman defined this as struggling with WYSIATI: What You See Is All There Is. His book Thinking Fast and Slow earned him a Nobel Award and explains the common behavioral pattern in detail. Here is Daniel explaining WYSIATI for INC Magazine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6ArpK5HOzU


You can witness WYSIATI at work in lumberyards led by people like Howard. He's President of Camba Lumber, a $300 million, 12-location operation with a decade-long record of 12% to 15% pre-tax profits. Much of Howard's success can be attributed to his strategic move a decade ago when he enlisted his mentors, appointing Steve as the VP of Sales and Operations and Frank as the VP of Purchasing and Administration. Together, this trio accomplished exceptional feats.

But Steve and Frank are 17 years older than Howard and would have retired long ago were it not for the COVID epidemic. Once that passed, both retired simultaneously. Recognizing he had to search outside of the company to find the level of executive needed to fill Steve or Frank's shoes, Howard ran multiple searches…only to end up reverting to the familiar and hiring a string of industry friends. None of them worked, and Howard is looking again. But he remains stuck in a WYSIATI rut.


The solution: 5-step Score Card recruiting plan:  

 

  • Map out a deep understanding of the cultural landscape and critical competencies and expertise needed in the role.

  • Force ranking that list to create the Score Card from which all candidates will be measured. 

  • Develop a high-quality pool of 5 talented professionals with a proven history of success to compete for the position. 

  • Lead that pool through a structured interview process. 

  • Have the two best candidates competing for the position to the end. 

Not only does this process consistently land the exact talent needed, but I am continually amazed at how much our client leaders value what they learn from having five outside professionals objectively review their company. 


Now consider Flambeau Millwork, a highly respected, privately held two-step millwork company with $200 million in sales, a consistent 10% EBIT, and a reputation for excellent quality. Brian, the CEO/owner, and Paul, the VP of sales, built a great culture and team over 12 years. The business had a terrific organizational structure, clear lines of authority and responsibility, and career pathing opportunities for the people with financial transparency promoting a performance-based culture. Field-level leaders had the autonomy to make good decisions quickly, serving the people, broader team, and customers. This decentralized structure was core to their brand strength. 


Unfortunately, Paul wanted to take more risks with the business growth plan and sought the President's title. Brian knew Paul's strengths best fit his VP of Sales responsibilities, not the head office, so he said no. Paul left with a flamethrower, doing everything possible to damage the company brand. 


Brian, carrying the scars of Paul's disloyalty, began to distrust most mid-level leaders and became worn down from the CEO leadership role. Promoting his VP of Operations, Tim, to the COO role was admittedly an over-promotion. But Tim was safe, a dutiful lieutenant with a 15-year history at the company. It was a case of WYSIATI at work.


The combination of the CEO being simply tired, his newfound paranoia of middle management, and the COO not possessing the executive skills to lead the company started to wear on the decentralized organizational structure. Today, the COO has 26 direct reports, and the culture has pivoted to an autocratic, centralized leadership culture. Given that it's impossible to sustain a high level of awareness across 10 locations and 800 employees with this model, the executive leadership group and HQ are now viewed as aloof and uninterested in the people and customers. The company is in a vulnerable state and is already losing its best people. A significant loss of market share will come next.


 “Acknowledging what you don’t know is the dawning of wisdom.” -- Charlie Munger 


Under pressure, humans become overconfident and make quick, impulsive decisions, leaving themselves susceptible to Halo Effects and Confirmation Bias—accepting only favorable information around someone because they are familiar. Drawing conclusions based on the nearest associative data readily leaps to a conclusion that favors their first bias. It's common to isolate yourself under intense pressure, which unfortunately leads to digging your hole deeper. It requires awareness and courage to reach out for help.  


Misura Group has a wide range of tools and techniques to empower business leaders to map out thoughtful courses and develop the business model of their dreams. Utilizing our organizational engineering consulting offering to identify the competencies of the leadership team, growth opportunities of the people already on the team and increasing their alignment of personal goals with the company objectives is key first step. Then, highlight and define how outside talent might help the team achieve their goals faster. Organizational engineering and executive recruiting combined are formidable offerings for our clients.


Hire Smarter™   – Tony Misura 

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