How are Charlie Munger, Aristotle, and firing your employees connected?
1 Quote, 1 Thought. For founders (not) only.
Hi, troublemakers! 👋
Here's a powerful quote I've highlighted this week, along with a thought for you to reflect this weekend.
Take care and unwind!
From Charlie Munger:
“[C.F. Braun] rule for communications was called the five Ws: You had to tell who was going to do what, where, when, and why. And if you wrote a letter or directive in the Braun Company telling somebody to do something and you didn’t tell him why, you could get fired. In fact, you would get fired if you did it twice.”
"When recalling Charlie Munger’s lecture about C.F. Braun, everyone focuses on the five Ws, particularly the 'why' factor. I think it's a valuable addition to the who-what-when technique when setting tasks. However, it’s worth noting that this concept is not new and has been around since Aristotle, later expanded by Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologiae:
“For in acts, we must take note of who did it, by what aids or instruments he did it with, what he did, where he did it, why he did it, how and when he did it.”
What I find interesting about Braun’s rule is the last line:
(…) if you didn’t tell why, you could get fired.
In fact, you would get fired if you did it twice.
There's a significant lesson here for founders and managers, particularly during intense periods of transformation, implementing new systems, and trying new work approaches.
Just a few weeks ago, I cited research from 'CEO Excellence' stating that the soft ‘stuff’ account for over 70% of the barriers to a company's success. Therefore, “once a CEO sets a direction for the company’s future, the probability that the plan will become reality is still low.”
So, what can we learn from Mr. Braun?
When introducing foundational rules and values and expecting them to be respected, founders must be prepared to make firm and swift decisions regarding those who do not follow or, worse, sabotage these decisions.
Discussing the rule? Yes.
Modifying the rule? Yes.
Offering the second chance? Yes.
Giving a third or fourth chance? No.
Keep in mind that each time a rule is broken without consequences, an exception is made, and this, much like in US courts, will be exploited in the future by other employees. Then, in the best-case scenario, you end up with a dead rule. In the worst, you risk losing your authority and the ability to influence the company at all.
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