Although I’m not – to say the least – looking for a job, I always enjoy glancing through the help wanted ads in The Economist. Sometimes the jobs on offer are quite excellent. A few years back, there was one (if I remember correctly) for the secretary to HRM The Queen. I didn’t qualify, so it’s a good thing I wasn’t interested.
This week’s edition had a few jobs that stood out. The CIA is recruiting “the intellectually curious adventurer looking for an unparalleled, high-impact international opportunity.” No specific work experience required, but the spooks would welcome sales, marketing, and real estate professionals. Maybe folks familiar with, say, money laundering with oligarchs?
But the position on offer that really caught my eye was for the President and CEO of Canada’s Post Office, which provides “innovative physical and electronic delivery solutions and services…more than 9 billion messages and parcels annually.” Forget “neither rain nor snow nor heat nor gloom of night” – and, yes, I know that’s the US mantra not Canada’s. But you don’t think Canada has snow and gloom or night??? And forget Deliver De Letter De Sooner De Better. This is the 21st century. We’ve talking innovative solutions,
Most of the “wide array of competencies sought” are pretty standard senior management fare, albeit with a few current corporate-speak bingo words thrown in just to see if folks are awake. Or awoke. Experience with complex business transformation. Decision-making ability. Multi-faceted organization. Executive experience. Working collaboratively with a wide array of stakeholders. (Am I mis-remembering, or was there really a time when we didn’t worry about collaborating with stakeholders?)
Canada Post would like to see someone with experience in a large, unionized organization, which would leave plenty of resumes on the floor.
But my favorite competency on the list was this one:
Strategic brilliance with the ability to assess what the future holds.
Lord-y lord. Wouldn’t someone who truly had the ability to assess what the future holds take that competency to some arena where they could make a boat load of money? Or make the world a better place? Just sayin’
As for strategic brilliance, lord-y, lord-y, lord-y lord.
Throughout my long career I can’t count the times I’ve seen strategic brilliance. That’s because the number is zero.
Admittedly, I didn’t exactly spend that long career in companies known for baseline strategic competence, let alone strategic brilliance. Even looking in – nose pressed to the window, little match girl style – at other companies (generally competitors) that seemed to have their strategic shit together, what looked like a genius strategy generally turned out to be stumbled upon luck combined with market luck multiplied by excellent timing, factored up by pi.
Oh, yeah, and it never seemed to last.
Those guys who were eating our lunch, who seemed to have the world by the balls, who seemed to be making all their employees (our former colleagues) millionaires? Give it time, and those shining stars turned out to be shooting stars. And all those employee millionaires? Paper only, of course, By the time they could cash those options in, share price had peaked and plummeted. Sorry we expended all that energy being jealous of your wealth.
I’ll give you that there are some companies known for their lasting strategic brilliance. Apple comes to mind. It’s just that they’re companies that I have neither first nor second-order experience with.
I’d love to be a fly on the Canada Post wall when the interviewer asks the interviewee to talk about their strategic brilliance. Tell me about a situation in which you demonstrated your strategic brilliance. And probably even see if they can tap a bit of that strategic brilliance on behalf of Canada Post. If you were the CEO of Canada Post, what do you think the most strategically brilliant initiative you could undertake that would enable CP to provide an innovative physical delivery solution? How many times will the answer be “drones” before someone realizes that they’re seeing strategic ho-hum predictability rather than a flash of strategic brilliance.
I’m not great at assessing what the future holds, but I’ll bet that, whoever lands the job at Canada Post, strategic brilliance isn’t going to be the sharpest tool in their tool box. Strategic brilliance in the past is not that transferrable from one organization and situation to the next. Too much luck, etc. involved to duplicate it. But the good news for the new CP CEO is that it will take a while before someone figures out that, whatever the strategy in place is, it’s probably not all that brilliant. Like most organizations, I’m guessing they’ll be just as happy with strategic competence.
Curiously, one of their requirements wasn’t the ability to execute a strategy.
Whether the strategic is competent or brilliant, if you can’t execute on it, what good it is?
Anyway, good thing I’m not interviewing for the job. All I could come with is drones…