The 19th century Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth Graf von Moltke used to categorise his officers as belonging to one of four types.
First off there were the not so bright and lazy. These people were mainly harmless, were useful for menial tasks and did what they were told. Then there were the not so bright but industrious and these people were a menace. They did the wrong things, generally caused chaos and created unnecessary work for others. They needed to be rooted out and removed.
Then you had the smart and industrious. These people made excellent general staff officers, as they largely made sensible plans, got on with things, and did what was required in an intelligent way.
And finally you had the smart and lazy, and they were suited for the highest office. Why? Because their laziness led them to do the right thing in the easiest possible way. The term ‘lazy’ though was not meant in a pejorative sense by the German, as these officers never threw brute force (in their case that involved the lives of their soldiers) at a mission. They used their intelligence to find the easiest, least costly solution.
I suspect many of us could pigeon hole most of our work colleagues into one of these categories; in fact it makes a good exercise, as the distribution within the quadrant is a classic Pippa Malmgren ‘Signal’ as to the potential of your employer. A bare top right (smart and lazy) and you’re not going anywhere fast.
Which is where tech comes in, as the fundamental characteristic of well designed technology is to remove friction and simplify processes. I need a taxi; open Uber app and within a few clicks it’s on the way. I want a book; open Amazon app, search, tap on 1Click order and it’s on the way. I need a flight, or a hotel room, or some insurance, or directions or pretty much everything and whizz, bang, pop it’s done. The smart but lazy way is best.
So how is it at your company? How long does it take you to do what you need to do? And how easy is it for your customers, or partners, or suppliers to deal with you? If you were one of your customers would you, honestly, say that dealing with your company was both easy and a pleasure?
The BCO, in their recent ‘Building Performance’ report found that just 17% of office occupiers surveyed rated their satisfaction with the way their property was managed as good or excellent. Is that an outlier within the industry, or par for the course?
The property industry is full of smart people. So why are so many customers not happy? Could it be that by not embracing technology we simply cannot provide the service our customers desire? It is time for more smart but lazy thinking; time to grasp the potential of ‘the machines’ and do much more with much less.
Originally printed in Estates Gazette 12th September 2015