As many of you already know, we spend a lot of time in Cape Town South Africa. It’s a great city, and doubly so if you like nature, food and wine.
For me, I go for 2 out of the 3 since I kinda got my fill of “the great outdoors” for the sake of it growing up as a farm kid in East-Central Illinois. But that’s a story for another day.
At the house we rent in Cape Town, it’s pretty-much surrounded on all sides by shrubs and trees. When we moved in, the previous tenants hadn’t really kept up with the garden (that’s “lawn” for all the Americans out there), so it was a massive job for the garden service to trim it all back into shape and herd all the lions, wildebeest and elephants back into the savannah.
So after about a year of the garden service coming every week for an hour or so to trim the grass, the bushes and generally keep things neat and tidy, I noticed that the branches from the trees were getting to the point where we were walking into them.
So I called the foreman over and asked him about it. We’ll call him Joe.
“Hi Joe. Did you notice how low those trees have gotten you cut back when we moved in?”
“Yeah. I noticed that. Let me ask Ron what we should do about it,” he said. (Ron is the owner of the lawn service, BTW)
I’m thinking… “ask Ron?” Really?
Just trim them back. What’s so hard about this?
The next week they came and were doing their normal work. Afterwards, Joe came back up to me with this gem:
“Hi Andrew. I was talking to Ron about the trees, and he said we could do it next week for $XXX.”
I just looked at him in stunned disbelief.
Then I counted to 10, and said, “Um, no. I don’t think so. Why don’t you just do a little bit of them every week when you notice they’re getting long? They’re part of the garden. Not only that, the owners actually paid you extra for things like this last year in advance. What’s the story?”
He looked at me and smiled. “Now don’t shoot me. I’m just the messenger.”
“Yeah, I think we can fit doing a little bit in at a time each week, and it won’t be any extra,” he said after thinking a few minutes.
“Thank you,” I said.
So, what would you have done?
Would you have paid the extra dosh to have them do something all at once they should’ve been doing all along?
Now think for a minute about the work you do as a security leader. Have you ever made the same kind of request to a business customer, an IT customer or even your boss?
“Yeah, well… if you want us to do that, it’ll take an extra 2 weeks…” or something similar?
Why? You just undermined your credibility with your customer (even if it was your boss, he’s still your customer).
Most of the time, we do this because we say “we don’t have time to do it right,” or “I don’t have enough people, so we skipped that part.”
Full disclosure: I’ve done it too. That’s why I know it’s poppycock!
They’re just excuses. And often, they come from the poor application of a variation of the Agile mantra of “You Ain’t Gonna Need It.”
…and most of the time – at least with an experienced team – that’s just not true.
Pay now or pay later. You’re still going to have to pay.
As a leader, you should know when you’re gonna need it and when you aren’t. Isn’t that your job?
Now think about which one, now or later, is going to earn you the most credibility with your customers.
When you do what Ron did to me through Joe, he’s basically asking to get paid twice for doing the same scope of work.
Turn that around, and that’s effectively what you’re asking your customers to do too—except with time, and we all know there’s a hard link between time and money.
This kind of thinking is what kills change programs that would otherwise transform the organization dead in their tracks more times than I can count.
So ask yourself, do you want to be a “pay now” or a “pay later” kind of leader?
If you answered “pay now” and use that as an opportunity to build credibility and trust with your customers and your management, but you find yourself more often than not in “pay later” territory, eroding your relationships with the people you need most…
We just launched a new program for that, and I know I can help.
You know you don’t wanna be “that guy.”
Here’s the link: http://archistry.com/go/SecurityLeader
Andrew S. Townley
Archistry Chief Executive