It is possible to split business organizations coarsely into two camps- Old Testament and New Testament. Old Testament organizations tend to be conservative along all of the organizational degrees of freedom. Employees have conservative mannerisms and dress, decorum is strenuously observed, desktops are always neat and tidy, and the management of personnel tends to be rigid. Lots of complicated rules and no mercy.

New Testament organizations on the other hand, tend to be more tolerant of iconoclasm and Bohemian values. The New Testament company is all about redemption and mercy. Ties are hastily donned for visitors from Old Testament businesses because Friday business casual lasts all week. Startups tend to be New Testament.

New Testament businesses are like friendly Unitarians and liberal Quakers, while Old Testament businesses are like sober Pentecostals and Mormons. One is not necessarily better than the other, though if you are caught in the wrong “denomination”, you are probably very unhappy.

Having once experienced the transition from New to Old Testament management, I can say that it can be a very uncomfortable ride. This transition can cause people to elicit interesting or unexpected behaviour. One of the insights that I have had relates to the manner in which people may engage in discussion or negotiation.

Some business managers are naturally very shrewd or astute individuals. They are able to achieve penetrating insights into relationships and circumstances where others might just see a toothy grin or hear a plausible excuse. After all, even Freud had to admit that sometimes a cigar was just a cigar. But the astute business person may be able to intuit a more creative view.

Sometimes, however, astute is confused with cagey. A cagey manager can be shrewd, but the difference is that a cagey person is one who is fundamentally unwilling to reveal information. Why is this important? Because information is the currency of trust. Information truthfully (and carefully) revealed is what allows relationships to move forward. Information about your intent and interest can go a long way to make a potential customer feel better about the business decision to buy your products.

Cagey managers may go well beyond simple mistrust of everyone. They may also be convinced that they understand what the customer “really” wants or what their real intent is. It is possible for smart people to step across the line and enter a space where they believe they can see what is happening behind the curtain. It is a very dangerous thing for a manager to think he is smarter than the customer.

The time tested optimum path is to take the customers word at face value, even if it means that you will get taken advantage of now and then. Give the customer what they ask for and not what you think they really mean. You can’t fall off the floor.

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