“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” — John Steinbeck
In 2007 I wrote about forming the Competence Party. I’d have loved to do it, and would have if only I was competent to form a political party.
I think it’s fair to say that this is the first election since then in which competence is an actual issue — something voters are paying attention to when deciding who to vote for.
So without commenting on either candidate’s competence track record, and in case you haven’t yet cast your ballot, let me encourage you to skip character as an issue no matter how tempting it might be as a differentiator. Character does and should matter, but there are in fact times when we care less if someone is a sphincter than we care if that someone is a sphincter who’s on our side.
The “He might be a sphincter but he’s my sphincter” philosophy has its limits though, namely, that sphincters exhibit neither consistency nor loyalty.
Let me also encourage you to skip the “Who would you rather have a beer with?” criterion, not only because the question finishes with a preposition, but also on the grounds that it’s profoundly stupid.
Competence shouldn’t be a deciding factor either, but only because we should be able to assume it. It should be the ante that lets a candidate play the game, not the hand that wins it.
But here we are. And so, in case you’re still undecided, or if you’d like the list of Competence Party principles to support something more prosaic, like, for example, hiring a manager or making sure your own management style is predicated on competence, here’s the list for whatever use you’d care to put it to:
- We will know what we want to accomplish, be clear in how we describe it, and know why it’s a good idea.
- We will concentrate our efforts on a small number of important goals, recognizing that if we try to accomplish everything we’ll end up accomplishing nothing.
- We will be realistic. We will choose courses of action only from among those possibilities predicated on all physical objects obeying the laws of physics, human nature not somehow changing for the better, and what has gone wrong in the past having something useful to teach us.
- Our decisions will always begin by examining the evidence. And we will recognize that when our cherished principles collide with the evidence, the evidence wins. Every time.
- With new evidence we will reconsider old decisions. Without it, we won’t.
- We will never mistake our personal experience for hard evidence. Personal experience is the evidence we know best. It’s also a biased sample.
- We will think first, plan next, and only then act. The only exception is a true emergency, where making any decision in the next two minutes is better than making the right decision sometime in the next several days.
- We will never mistake hope for a plan. A plan describes what everyone has to do, in what order, to achieve a goal. Vague intentions and platitudes don’t.
- We will sweat the details. Vague intentions and platitudes don’t have any, which is why those who stop with them always fail.
- We will put the most qualified person we can find in every position. We’ll find some other way to reward high-dollar campaign contributors. Also, if we find someone is not able to succeed at what we’ve asked them to do, we’ll replace them with someone who is.
- We will never blame anything on the law of unintended consequences. Our job is to foresee consequences, which we can usually do if we think things through.
You might think I crafted these based on current events to sway your vote to a specific candidate. Well, I did base these principles on events, only they were current in 2007, not 2020.
Also: If you’re applying these principles to hiring a new manager, this isn’t exactly the same as deciding who to vote for in a presidential election. In particular, when hiring a manager, or any other position for that matter, you don’t have to settle, and shouldn’t.
When hiring, good enough is rarely good enough. When voting, in contrast, the slate of candidates is it. Pick the best from the list of those who might possibly win.
Exclude those who can’t possibly win because otherwise your vote will count as a half vote for a candidate you’d otherwise vote against.
One more thing: Whether you agree with the Competence Party’s list of principles as a way to decide who to vote for, or you have other criteria you like better, vote.
Unless you disagree with me. Then, please abstain. Your non-vote will only make my own vote count for more.