Cogs in the Machine

A blog post I read the other day on Seth Godin's blog (read it) gave me an absolute moment of clarity. "The problem with fitting in and being a cog in the machine is that cogs are intentionally designed to be easily replaced. When one breaks you just get a new one. No one particularly misses the old one." We have spoken on this blog a number of times about the changing nature of work. And about how you, as a commercially valuable talent, are facing a new and different work place than your parents did. (Read Free Agent Nation by Daniel Pink) So if talent is the commodity of this century, and business life cycles are getting shorter; then your choice is obvious. Be an asset, or be replaced by someone who is. This is particularly relevant in todays uncertain economic times. Here are some things for you to ponder (I like that word) :
  • If you left tomorrow; who would care? Would you be like removing a finger carefully from a glass of water, like removing a support beam from a wall? (Tip: be the beam)
  • If your initiative stopped tomorrow, would anybody notice?
  • How important is your project? (If you aren't on one then GET ON ONE!)
Maybe its vital.. Does anybody know? How are you managing the message? Are you getting home runs and not telling anyone?
  • What makes you the "must have" resource in your company? (Forget technical capability! You need that just to get into the game.)
  • Think about the extra areas. Innovation, adding real value ($$$), developer of future leaders, or breadth of ability.
I often see others railing against specialization. And to some extent I agree. But my experience is that you must do one thing exceptionally well, perhaps better than anybody else in the world. And then you need to be able to do "other" things well.
  • Are you a goto person? Will clients / managers / supervisors or peers (internal and external) seek you out for your views on issues?
  • And if they do, could they easily seek out someone else?
We are in an age where information is everywhere. Experience comes contained in RCM analysis and expert systems. If you haven't lived through it once already, them at some time in the near future you are going to find that some technological wizardry is suddenly able to perform the tasks you have perfected over years. (Or maybe even an engineer in some off shore low wage economy) Tom Peters says be Distinct or Extinct. Wiser words were never spoken about career management, particularly in the 21st century and particularly in maintenance and reliability. If you enjoyed this post please consider subscribing in a reader, or you can also receive The Art of Change by Email.