The Curse of the Modus Operandi

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The Daily

In any business there’s a series of rules to follow. Most of them aren’t explicitly stated, but follow a type of common (business) sense. A general modus operandi (MO) develops.

Both as a founder or an employee it’s easiest to stick to this MO. It feels sensible and like it saves time. But by doing so, you are recreating the same issues that these structures have created for all companies before you. To make it worse, people have a higher level of tolerance for these types of issues. They’re annoying but also implicitly accepted as “that’s just what office life is like“.

This is lazy. These commonly accepted problems are holding you back. And a lot of them make no sense. You want to buy a few books for $100? Ask your manager. Maybe expense it. You want to invite six people for a two hour meeting? That’s free. (Except it’s not. It actually costs $840, assuming $100K salaries).

As I wrote in The Strategy Tax, “doing the same thing as last year requires no preparation and little effort”. Your modus operandi starts to own you. It dictates rules that you can’t be bothered to challenge, or even think about.

Questions to ask yourself:

Why is it okay to lie in a budget, but not in a meeting?

Why does it matter how many hours someone works?

Why is an upward trajectory for your title assumed to be good?

No one knows. It just is.

The systems that you use to run your business, shape it too. Break the curse of the modus operandi and you’ve unlocked a new way to run and differentiate your business.

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  1. Andrew Kao says

    I’ve always leaned more towards “accountability first” style of management. Where different people in the organizations are accountable for certain outcome, with minimum emphasis on process. This way, there would be a lot less “MO”. The downside of this approach is, there also tends to be less organizational memory, less consistency in execution, requires a lot more communication (cost), and churn can impact it much more.. Consequently, nowadays, I am trying to introduce more process, hopefully smartly..

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