Monday, July 19, 2010

Hard. Easy. What's the difference?

You ever watch one of those modeling shows and snicker to yourself when the model says: "Everyone thinks modeling is easy, but it is soooo hard!"? I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I'm beginning to think they're right. Imprecise, but right.

Several months ago, a colleague of mine said. "Sales is the hardest job. Convincing someone to part with money is the hardest thing to do in professional services." It is my belief that this is wrong. It is my belief that, for the most part, no one job is harder than any other or more important than any other. It is my belief that the job itself isn't hard, it's being great at your job that is the hard thing.

Doing a job well enough to "make it to the top" of any field is extremely hard given that "making it to the top" basically means finding a way to push your performance and abilities to a point where you can be better than more than 90-95% (and sometimes more in highly visible fields or fields where people's lives are on the line) of the rest of the population.

Being a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist isn't hard at all. It's being a good one that's hard. It's fairly easy to do a poor job at almost any discipline.

Professional services can basically be broken down into 3 components - sell the work, do the work, support the work. Some people like to articulate a narrative where one component is THE critical ingredient or one job is harder than the others. I'm just not buying it. I'm a big fan of the "three legged stool" model for professional services. Take one leg off and it's just a hunk of wood that is of very little use to anyone.

If you can't sell the work - nobody gets paid.
If you can't do the work - nobody gets paid.
If you can't support the work - nobody gets paid.

It's as simple as that.


Elevation of disciplines or jobs at the expense of others - Garbage.

Looking through the lens of system dynamics where all parts are necessary but not sufficient - Like it.

"I'm normally not a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me Superman." - Homer Simpson

1 comment:

lifenotdeath said...

Apparently it's getting paid that is THE hard part. At least that's the common denominator in your 3 options. Having sold, done and supported development and UX work over the years I agree with Steve. I have pursued clients that we didn't win - no payday. I have sold business that was not delivered - no payday. I have had done work not be supported - no pay after the initial delivery. You can certainly reach a "nobody get's paid" state at any step along the way. In my opinion, the later you reach it, the more painful it is. Don't win a client - move on. Can't deliver what is sold - have to work out a sub-optimal resolution. Can't support delivered work - lose a relationship: ouch.