I once knew a painter who at the end of each day emptied his leftover paint into a big tub he had in the back of his van. No matter the colour of paint he was using, in it went into the tub: Post box red, canary yellow, blushing pink, emerald green, even Prussian blue. No matter the combination, with a stir of a paddle it always turned a light battleship grey. The painter used this leftover paint for undercoat and even top coat; when he could persuade his customer into believing that grey was the colour of sophistication and compromise.
And yet, this seems to be true of everything: Write an article for an in-house magazine and let a few managers review it and before long you have a grey text that says nothing and bores even the most optimistic employee into a deep sleep.
In politics too, if you live in a country where everything is just perfect and you do not want anyone coming along and changing things, then be sure to have proportional representation: give everyone a say, ensure there are lots and lots of political parties and make sure everyone’s voice is heard. In no time at all everything will turn grey. You don’t need to worry about any ideas that people may have (especially if they are important) because they will never find a sufficient majority to come to anything. Every idea will have to be traded in compromise; ‘if I support you on this what will you give me in return?’. And even if the idea did eventually make it to the statute books, it will be so watered down with grey compromise that it will most likely be completely ineffective.
In the same way, please God spare us from collaborative board rooms; the debating business units, the open HR departments and the logic of the consensus of the workers councils. When everyone’s voice is heard you end up in white noise, or dare I incorrectly say, grey noise? However I do need a caveat here: I am not advocating dictatorships or anarchy, far from it, but in business I do like to see distributed responsibility; leaders that have a vision; that take decisions, that report back progress to the shareholders while delegating action to those best placed to take it on.
So be careful of anything grey, it may look calm and hassle free and it may even replace purple in becoming the new fashionable colour in neck ties and shirts for men. But watch out: if you start to live it; unless you live in paradise, you’ll end up bored and despondent and having to debate with everyone, just to keep things exactly how they are right now.
So be prepared to upset someone, be bold enough to execute ‘your plan’. Be prepared to stand up and be counted for taking a decision. The enemy of enterprise is not regulatory control, its inaction (disguised in the form of grey compromise).
Have a good week,