Leda Writes for Fintech Futures: wishful thinking and self-fulfilling prophecies

Dr Leda Glyptis 11:FS Foundry CEO
5min read

Every Thursday, Leda Glyptis, 11:FS Chief of Staff creates #LedaWrites. This week she turns her attention to self-fulfilling prophecies and dead fish.

A couple of years ago, during a crowded, rowdy dinner under a starry sky, a friend fresh back from a stint in China told me a story about opening a new office.

Long story short, by the time they moved in, it was hardly a surprise that nobody at HQ had thought about calling in a Feng Shui expert. He was brought in and announced “this will simply not do”.

So the expert apparently advised that if we have to make the most of a bad situation, some blackfish should be bought. And kept in aquaria in clearly marked spots in the office. “They will die,” said the expert, sadly. Inevitably, they will die as they absorb the bad juju (technical term).

But what else can you do?

So the fish was bought. And they died. So more was bought. And they died.

By the third time the boss was signing off on the invoices for more fish, he incredulously said to his assistant “these things are dying off way too fast, what are you feeding them?”

“Nothing,” she said. “Why waste the feed, since they are going to die anyway?”

This goes to the single most compelling and least discussed reason of why banking experiments, transformation efforts, large-scale initiatives and change projects fail.

The problem is a lack of communication that travels both ways

And that is because the people Deciding, the people Executing and the people Doing are not aligned on the why of the what and the what of the why. In other words the people Doing never really fully know why and the people Deciding never really hear what. The problem is a lack of communication that travels both ways.

Executing never told the people Doing what we are not prepared to give up. What we don’t mind giving up. And where we will need to make hard choices about effort vs returns.

Do you know how many times a day, in banks all over the world, projects that are strategically aligned to meaty objectives have meetings about why the blackfish are dying, or equivalent?

Fish that maybe should have been fed. Maybe shouldn’t have been bought in the first place. Fish representing the conversations we never have between people too important for detail and people too junior for long words. Fish dying in the name of KPIs and Chinese-wisper style deliverables. Piling on top of each other, providing superficial fixes to things that weren’t even needed in the first place.

In short, if you don’t want your organisation to be plagued by self-fulfilling prophecies and dead fish, don’t create them. Tell people why. Tell people what good looks like.

And feed the fish.

Read the whole story at Fintech Futures.