Monday, February 28, 2011

That's The Way We Do Things Around Here

In Making It All Work, David Allen makes what I think’s an interesting distinction:

“Because what I teach is actually not a system but a systematic approach, it can be adapted…”

When I first read that (in context) I thought I knew precisely what he meant. Looking at it again, though – Do I really know the difference between a system and an approach? How about a methodology? A formula?

What got me thinking about this was a visit to the SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) Web site. I was following up after something I’d read last year, that Deluxe Corporation, one of the largest check printers in the U.S., was teaming up with SCORE to make its Counseling Methodology available to smaller businesses.

To my mild surprise, I discovered this time around that the words ‘counseling’ and ‘methodology’ have been chopped in favor of ‘mentoring’ and ‘program’. Hmmm. Mentoring Program strikes me as less structured, less prescriptive, less pushy…

I don’t know how much thought or debate went into the name change. But I think it matters, at least to this extent:

If you'd ask a small business owner to describe what her company does day-in and day-out in its efforts to be successful, there’s a good chance she’d end by saying something like, “That, in a nutshell, is the way we do things.” There'd likely be no references to systems, methodologies, etc. In this respect there's a disconnect...between typical small business owners and the mentors (or consultants or coaches or facilitators or advisors) who call on them.

What can be done about it? Well, if you're in that second camp and your mission is to help smaller businesses succeed, you can do 'em a favor by bridging the gap. Be clear about who you are and what you have to offer -- and learn to use their lingo. Down to the last word.

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For kicks, here's how some other thought leaders describe their offerings:

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