Clark Kent’s shoes

Back when Superman used to change into his outfit in a phone booth, the question was: where does he put Clark's shoes? Because even if he could compress them with his super strength, they'd be ruined.

Organizations that need to adopt different personas often get into trouble.

Consider ConEdison, which is completely failing here in NY during the recent storms (and of course, it's nothing compared to what people in Puerto Rico or other parts of the world have gone through).

On one hand, most of the time, they're invisible. They're a boring bureaucracy, optimized for stable jobs, predictable if not low-cost processes, mediocre customer service and average (or below average) user interface design. They're a monopoly and they act like one.

But then, when things break, they're expected to act like heroes, like people who truly care. They are expected to hustle, to find the edge of the performance curve, to really step up.

Unfortunately, their shoes don't compress very well.

We know it can be done. We see heroic organizations do great work. But ConEd doesn't.

John McAvoy, the CEO, is probably pretty good at steering a boring monopoly. I have no clue. But he hasn't built much in the way of heroic response capability. And every time something breaks, that becomes obvious. 

Small businesses sometimes wrestle with the opposite. They get their accounts by acting like heroes, performing miracles on an emergency basis. But when it comes time to regularly do the work, to show up and show up and show up, they don't have the resources or the patience to do so.

The opportunity is to choose. To truly embrace one and buy precisely the right kind of shoes.

The alternative is to invest the resources to have two teams that can do one or the other. And to tolerate the fact that when the other team is working, you're not at maximum efficiency.

Systems are a miracle. Until we try to force a system that's good at one thing to do another.

Then we just ruin our shoes and end up annoying everyone who trusted us.

(PS comic book geeks will recall that Clark's shoes were made out of a special kind of miracle foam that looked just like a boring Florsheim brogue but could be compressed into a really small ball. And of course, there's no such thing available to the general non-superhero management class, sorry).