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False Dichotomy of Work/Life Balance


Happy New Year Everyone. I am back after a long break which included a family cruise around Asia, my daughter’s graduation from Medical School and another two weeks break at Christmas. One would say I have a good work/life balance, but that is not the way to view it. While I was on Holiday’s I kept reading. It was not because I felt a need to keep up with work rather it is what I am. I don’t see a distinction between my interest in business and my private life and Christmas came with gifts of more business books.


When doing my regular reading, I came across and article in my normal subscription of emails. It was a Business Insider* article in which Jeff Bezos, the Founder-CEO of Amazon stated that work/life balance is a “debilitating phrase because it implies there’s a strict trade-off.” A trade-off reminded me of a False Dichotomy or a situation where two alternatives are presented as the only options, when other options are available. It too can be referred to as a Binary Choice or simply an ‘Either-Or’. The problem with a False Dichotomy is that there is an underlying mistake in reasoning offering only two alternatives when there are more. One common saying that is an example is Take it or Leave it.


Bezos went on to say that if he is happy at home, then he is the same at work. I wrote in my book that one cannot be one thing at home and another at work. I often use the example of a Lean Manufacturing specialist: would you use a Lean Manufacturing Specialist who had a messy car? How about an accountant whose personal finances were in shambles?


The idea that there is an either-or, that your life and work are in balance or not, is something that Bezos does not accept, rather he used the description of a “Circle”. If you have read my book then you would see the appeal to me in a confirmation bias way. The first part of my book is called “Circular Strategy”.


Many companies see strategy as a plan written at a point in time that will be in place for a period. Many firms then review the strategy at an interval of five years or perhaps one year. They assess their strategy execution in terms of was successful or not, or more likely did it happen, or did it not.


Most organisations would agree that they need a strategy, but few execute it. These firms are not viewing strategy in the manner that they should. A Circle or Circular implies a continuous recurring view of strategy execution. It is not an either-or. Strategy execution is like the Japanese concept of Kaizen or continuous improvement, it is not a one-off shot, or attempt, that requires a debrief a year or two later.


Strategic plans are often flawed in that they are a plan at a point in time, but in business things change. Something as simple as losing an employee should have an impact on the strategic plan. For example, what was the part that the employee played in achieving the strategic plan and how is that going to be replaced. Strategy, both planning and execution cannot be deemed successful by asking did we achieve it or not. I am an advocate of goals, but the goals are often step-points in time to achieving a purpose driven strategy that should have an inter-generational aspiration. Most strategy is treated like a false dichotomy when it should be treated like a Circular or infinite game in which there isn’t an end.



The photo was taken by the author from the Dragon and Tiger Pagoda at Lotus Pond, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan


#ChEQmate: Using Corporate held Emotional Quotient as a Winning Business Strategy.

#JeffBezos, #Worklifebalance, #Strategy, #Strategyexecution, #FritzShoemaker


*MATHIAS DÖPFNER, "Jeff Bezos reveals what it's like to build an empire and become the richest man in the world -- and why he's willing to spend $1 billion a year to fund the most important mission of his life." Link Business Insider, Apr 30, 2018.

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