To Understand An Issue You Must Understand Its Root Cause

Part 2 in a series

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mark St. Cyr

First, before we begin, let me make the following abundantly clear...

None of the following is to be interpreted as some offhanded cheap shot or ad hominem attack directed at any Grand Lodge, officers, members, appendant, concordant, or anything or anyone else in-between. There are many dedicated Brothers from white aprons to gold bullion’d working diligently to try and turn around what many believe is an inevitable outcome from coming to pass. And this entire series is to help enable those trying to figure out the best methods possible for doing just that. I stand in solidarity with every single one of them and offer my endearing support to that cause. Period, full stop.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

Let’s start with a distinction which very few understand for its implications...

The entrepreneurial class, generally, will only buy and read biographies of people they respect or impressed with to gain relevant insights, regardless of genre.

The managerial class, purposely, will buy and sometimes read business books from some “Best Seller” list to try and impress other managers, regardless of insight or relevance.

Now, you may be reading the above and think it’s a veiled attempt to demean. I assure you, it’s not.

What it truly represents is a very pointed distinction which carries an even bigger difference - if - one is trying to ascertain an issue troubling any company. In other words: Who’s running the place and why?

This one very simple question, answered correctly, allows for the proper application of any correcting pragmatics. However, what it does far more effectively is increase its expediency by freeing itself from all other considerations.

Or, said differently: Strategy and tactics for growth are not necessarily conducive to strategy and tactics needed to survive. As a matter of fact, both can “kill” if applied incorrectly and/or at the wrong time.

Let me demonstrate...

What does a cyclical business do that’s positioned and executing a growth cycle and the economy overnight goes into recession, or worse?

• Does it keep doing what it’s doing until it can’t?
• Does it slow down or stop where it is and reevaluate?
• How about, maybe, it buys a competitor?
• Or, maybe, it sells part of its own structure to a competitor?
• Should it do a combination or hybrid from the above?

The list can go on and on.

Here’s the hidden secret to the above for those that are paying attention: None of it matters until you know who is running the company. e.g., Entrepreneurial class (EC), or Managerial class (MC).

The reason for it is this: No matter what you prescribe going forward, even if it's genius-level, any and all efficacy depend on whom will implement; why; and most importantly - will follow through.

EC’s and MC’s are two entirely different animals. Misjudge one for the other and the next step is usually insolvency, not to mention the same for your own sanity.

Now, here’s why the above is conducive to our current situation concerning the fraternity: Precisely whom (or collection of whom’s) is currently in charge of the area you are trying to implement change?

EC or MC?

I can hear right through my screens those grimacing “This doesn’t apply to me or my lodge. What is this crap?!” etc., etc., etc. Fair points, so let me show you why...

Any singular or group of current masons actively participating to make change for a more perfect union of traditions and experiences are basically working from the EC mindset model.

Any singular, lodge, or group of current masons reacting to any proposed changes through the prism of “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” etc., is working from the MC mindset model.

Remember what I said at the beginning about EC vs MC? Let’s put it into some practical application. To wit:

If you’re trying to convince EC's - you had better make your assertions from a Walt Disney bio viewpoint.

If you’re trying to convince MC's - you had better use the latest “Best Seller” on “How Disneyland® stays Disney!” base case modeling.

Here’s why it’s all important...

Neither side will ever be convinced by using the other to change or adapt its vision or practices - ever. They do not see the world from the same plane, let alone, willingly give up their self anointed “first-class seats” to take up what they’ll consider random seating on a new plane.

Think about it.

And, while we’re at it, let me add this one additional clarifier...

Do not mistake “exceptions to the rule,” regardless of how many you may know personally, as a dis-qualifier to fully appreciate “the rule.”

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” ~Peter Drucker

As I stated in my first article I’m what is known as a “Turnaround Specialist.” And what that entails is the ability to walk into any company, regardless of size, and very quickly decipher and surmise the most problematic aspects affecting it. That’s the reason for the above. And it’s worth far more than you know if you can fully appreciate its simplicity and efficacy. And yes - I developed it.

Here’s something else you might not fully appreciate and, basically, never read in any “Business” or “Management” book...

All problems in most companies, again, regardless of size, boil down to about a dozen things. That’s it.

What those dozen are; how to identify them; and what to do about them once you do, is where the so-called “big bucks” reside.

And it’s not for the reason - most can’t. Rather, it’s - most won’t.

The reason for it is the overwhelming majority of so-called “consultants” and others are in love with their methodology. i.e., No matter what the root cause - their pre-formulated method is what they’re going to apply. And no lack of budget (or act of god!) will stop them. Period.

So, with that said, here’s a two part question for you in regards to whatever change you’re trying to bring about, or maybe just thinking about trying to implement. Ready?

What resistance will you potentially be battling; and by whom? An EC mindset, or MC one?
Don’t let this point be lost on you, it’s far too important.

Let’s use the “cornerstone” analogy for its importance, because all other building blocks for change and/or efficacy will be applied from this point going forward.

And to bring more light to this point, here’s what should follow in a next step succession that I’ll wager most never consider. However, its importance and relevance is critical. Again, ready?

Is it you (or your associated group) that will be directly responsible for actively pursuing the change?
Or, are you (or your group) waiting for someone else to come up with a plan that maybe you’ll sign on to?

The former puts you (or your group) into the EC camp. The latter, MC.

As I iterated prior, don’t let this point be lost on you. It’s that important, and truthful introspection is what will garner the best results.

To be clear: There’s no “wrong” answer here.

This is about how to effectively put proper resources together, personal or otherwise. Because knowing the difference will save yourself and others from much frustration while providing far more efficacy in enabling help to others in both camps.

Here’s an example:

If you are waiting for someone else to take the lead, yet, are willing to provide full-throated support when they do. This puts you in what I call “minoring in the EC camp,” while simultaneously “majoring in MC process.” A much-needed resource partner in any change agent endeavor.

Understanding and knowing aspects such as this allows you to take the proper steps and fill in the needed details (not to mention required work) to help ensure the mission.

On the other hand...

If you are not the one (e.g., the leader) yet, you allow others to tacitly see you as it. You, as well as any potential followers, may become frustrated when they look to you for advice and/or direction you’re not prepared (or want) to exert.

This alone “kills” good ideas before they even have a chance.

Both EC & MC need each other, along with varying degrees of hybrid options that work together. But (and it's a very big but!) both also need to understand the other's role and expectation for follow-through. Otherwise?

It’s called a “crapshoot” for a reason. For the odds of any of it working out are zero to nil. Backbiting, skullduggery, and more will be the only thing that gains buy-in momentum.

So, now let’s move onto another point that needs to be included for both proper definition, as well as pragmatics...

An EC mindset will rapidly move on to start new ventures if it's concluded the old one is no longer worth keeping and should be allowed to die.

An MC mindset will remain dedicated to serving a dying model till it is finally pronounced dead by some outside authority, or their paychecks no longer clear the bank. Whichever comes first.

This is not an exaggeration, this is a business fact.

Don’t believe me? Here’s just one modern-day example you may have heard of: Sears TM.

Let’s see how this all fits together from here.

The MC mindset is the most common reason any business entity eventually withers away and dies. For once the entrepreneurial spirit is lost - no management system on earth will ever replace it. All it will be able to do, at best, is manage the inevitable decline into irrelevancy, ending in oblivion.

Now there’s also a counterfactual, which is this...

Entrepreneurs left to their own devices, unchecked, can (and do) spectacularly fail more often than not without proper management and procedures to harness a sizable growing or unstable enterprise.

Case study: This is what happened to Steve Jobs (and countless others) in their early years.

So, now that we’ve discussed the relevant examples above here’s the differentiator to both...

What entrepreneurs can do that the best management system ever devised can not, is this...

ECs can/will/do start something new or again from scratch.
 MCs needs the thing to already be started to apply its craft.

To reiterate: entrepreneurs are the defining starting catalyst. Management - manages. Someone trying to argue “exceptions” is just wasting breath, for this is as fundamental as two following one. Here’s another case in point:

Need I remind you why AppleTM became the Apple you now know today that was resurrected from the ashes prior?

Hint: The entrepreneurial class (or singular person catalyst) returned. e.g., Steve Jobs. Mr. Sears, Roebuck, nor anyone else “entrepreneurial” ever returned to Sears - and it’s been “managed” into oblivion ever since.

(On a side note: For those that might be looking for holes in my arguments since I brought up Apple, I am on record and have been quoted in various media that Apple has returned to an MC mindset that will become self-evident in the not so distant future. And many are now beginning to conclude I may be more correct than anyone dares contemplate. As I always say “We shall see.” But now you know. Sorry for the digression, but I feel it's relevant for context. Back to our discussion...)

Freemasonry, as currently constructed in the U.S., is systematically following the Sears model whether it knows it or not. Openly admitting it would be a first step in the right direction, but I’ll leave that for another time. 

Let’s look at the similarities, shall we?

Have you been to a Sears lately? That is, if the one in your city still has one. How did this once great endeavor and business enterprise wind up in the sad situation it is now?

Hint: It “managed” its way to irrelevancy by believing all it had to do was “get people in the doors.”

More people means more sales, right? Be an anchor tenant in a mall where your facade and trademark dominates the local environment, dominates the national landscape, everybody knows who you are.

The community benefits by dint your presence. Ease of shopping, trusted brand of generations, respected in the community, gives to charity, supports civic organizations and on, and on, and on.

Again, truly think about it.

Over a hundred years of history (several lifetimes in business). Their model was copied by everyone, new models we are just fully understanding (think: online) were pioneered via their catalog model.

Everyone had their products and brands in their homes through generations. When kids became adults, moved out, and started their own families, the first things they would buy were appliances with a Kenmore® label. Tools? Craftsman®.

Going to Sears was a ritual as a kid for school clothes, accouterments, and more. A visit to any mall was not complete without going through its doors.

People continued to go there for decades. Seeing the trademark of a Sears & Roebuck® product instilled quality. There were factories in local towns that made many of those appliances, and some lasted longer than most marriages.

Remember when fixing the family car or putting tires, mufflers, batteries, and more was done at the local Sears? You had to make an appointment sometimes days in advance. And, you were confident that if there was a problem with the repair - it would be taken care of, pronto. The brand carried this surety.

And then - it was over. Why?

Hint: It lost its entrepreneurial core and became a bastion for centrally planned, top-down remedies, concocted in conference rooms that were probably cheered and high-5’d as “Can’t lose!” propositions from those creating them.

(Please hold the “cheap imports!” screams. That’s really not the case and too long a discussion to be argued here.)

Once these concoctions and other such calamities hit the light of interaction with true consumers - people were no longer impressed.

But, this doesn’t stop them from coming up with even more concoctions of desperation. As a matter of principle - it’s usually only the beginning.

Cheap sales, promos, gimmicky customer appreciation machinations, and more replaced quality products and true exemplary customer experiences.

Anything and everything “to get people in the stores” was the only thing that mattered.

Again, the issue here is - once they did come - they found all that once “quality and customer care” had been replaced with “We can sell the same cheaper!”

Then, that no longer worked, then it became “Our knockoff brands are better than theirs!” Till that no longer worked. (Remember Proscan® televisions? Don’t worry, neither does anyone else.)

The reduction of brand quality, brand awareness, brand selection, all of it, trickled down a rat-hole year after year into brand irrelevance, till the only thing that resembled its once great market dominance - was its outdated facade and indoor decor, manned by salespeople wishing they could find another job, rather, than sell the now all too common appliances on “commission only” status.

No one working (or selling) there believed what they were saying any longer. i.e., When a customer asks you a question - just recite what’s in the training manuals, word for word, and don’t deviate.

See a theme building here?

Past grandeur, past accolades for brand quality, none of it was truly important to customers any longer and hadn’t been for quite some time.

You could see this everywhere if you were one of the few that visited one before it closed. I know this from personally visiting the one in my area.

It became so pitiful we just stopped going.

Once worthy, fought over sales positions had been reduced to appearing more like carnival barkers. Salaries and commissions resembling them even more.

It was hard to ignore, you knew it instinctively as you walked by many of them over the years. Much like today’s mall carts, you hurried past or chose an aisle that went around them as to not hear the dreaded “Hello, are you interested in finding a way to do....”

Even “90% off Clearance!” signs would no longer get us in the door. It just wasn’t worth it.

Clerks at registers acted like you were bothering them when looking to find information, or dare I say: ring up a sale. What was on their phone was far more important than what was in your cart.

And “Let a curse be brought upon you!” were the looks shot at you if you dared try and interject a request for assistance as two or more “employees” were conversing.

You know precisely what I’m describing here, don’t you?

Local managers and general staff themselves cringed every-time they were notified of a “new and improved” directive issued from “Corporate.”

The only ones more incensed with these types of directives (aka disruptions to the consecrated norms) were the “Lifers.”

Empty shelves, less stock, less foot traffic, fewer receivables or deliveries. etc., etc., etc. make it much easier to keep track and maintain their segmented responsibilities. For that’s all that matters in this environment: Do the minimum so one doesn’t get “fired.” Rinse, repeat.

Again, no customers? No problems! Close early and have more time to gossip at the local pub discussing how bad things are and how they’re getting worse.

Complain as they may the reality is: complaining provides cover for those that actually don’t care nor want to try. “That’s for ‘the suits’ to figure out.” is the rallying cry.

Yet, maintaining anchor tenant status with cavernous interiors sporting grand facades takes not only money but people. Lots of money - and lots of people. And the MC’s need things to remain open as long as possible - or else - they’re out of a job also.

So, the standards get lowered to get “bodies in the door” to hopefully serve “anybody coming through the doors.”

However, when no one really cares about working there because the company is just a shell of its once former glory. Staff will be far more concerned about punching the clock either precisely at quitting time or sooner. Either will be considered “A win!”

Remember in 2019 when Sears rolled out a new “rebranding” campaign sporting a revamped logo and a new tagline “Making moments matter?”

I didn’t think you did, because no one else does either.

Yet, once processes like these begin, regardless of when, it does not stop till gravity finally takes hold and it all comes crashing

down with a sudden “Going Out Of Business” banner affixed to the once memorable facade.

And just like I stated at the very beginning, for those that are paying attention, what you’ve been reading for the last few minutes is what the business world refers to as: Culture. MC culture to be precise.

There isn’t enough digital ink to list all the similarities and parallels between the fraternity as it stands currently and Sears.

I believe everyone reading this can see and put together their own applications using this example.

In some ways, it’s almost a bit unsettling just how similar the lines or parallels can be drawn.

Yet, as unsettling as it may be - it is our current reality.

All those similarities and parallels will befall the fraternity if allowed to progress as it currently is. This is not hyperbole.

However: there is one - and only one thing - that allows for none of this to come to pass. And, as a matter of fact, can arrest it and reverse it.

Yes: Just one.

We’ll discuss it in the next installment. Hope to see you then.

~Mark St. Cyr, Freemason

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again! This has pointed out the need in training Masonic leaders that emphasis needs to be placed on helping a leader understand if he is an EC or an MC, and the importance of building a team that utilizes the strenghs of both classes. Too often the "title mindset" makes a Masonic leader believe he is good at everything when he often isn't. Also, the institutional barrier inherent in our leadership system, the progressive officer line, contributes to the problem. We elect a new CEO every year who knows he has only one year to create a legacy. So the classes view each other as obstacles that may make "their year" unsuccessful. What results many times, are leaders trying to go from idea to culture change in the short span of a year, ignoring that organizational change is a longer term process. Thanks for making me think, I look forward to the next installment.


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