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Phantom of the Oprah

Oprah_winfrey One of my students recently made me aware of the Living Oprah Blog, created by writer/actress, Robyn Okrant, who started an experiment to see if she could live her life for a whole year according to all the principles of Oprah Winfrey:  food, finance, exercise, clothing, relationships.  It sounds a lot like the "What Would Jesus Do" push only a lot more holier-than-thou with a heaping side dish of overbearing.  Her general observation very quickly arrived at living like Oprah is exhausting and is more than a full-time job.  To which I respond, "Well, DUH!  How much of that does Oprah actually do herself and how much is farmed out to her labrat minions to try for her so she can go and tout it on her show?"

Don't get me wrong... I like watching the occasional Oprah in those exceptionally rare moments when I have absolutely nothing else better to do... ok, so I NEVER watch Oprah.  But I know she has some good resources and her show, and she shares a lot of neat ideas which people can try to apply as they see fit.

Oops... I let out the secret, didn't I?  "CAN TRY to apply as they SEE FIT"?  Guess what?  You don't have to do EVERYTHING Oprah says you should do.

So why do I bring this up?  Well, we have a lot of Oprah-esque people running around our workplaces in the form of consultants and knowledge experts and hired guns.  They tout things like Six Sigma, Lean, Open Door Management, Open Book Management, Project Management... but you have to do EVERYTHING exactly like they tell you or your life and your career will be a complete failure.

A lot of my colleagues and friends accuse me of being anti-Lean or a Six Sigma Cynic... the reality is that I think each one has some great principles that can work; they're just generally led by people who are so myopic and dogmatic that you have to do things their way.  Then they throw up difficult roadblocks which make doing it their way unbearable.  ICK.  I am NOT a methodology-monger; more accurately, I'm a big fan of common sense.

So the next time you want to live like Oprah in your workplace, ask yourself some simple questions:

  • Does this make sense to you?  What doesn't sit right?

  • Are there other ways of getting to the same result?

  • Will this fit your organization's business need and culture?

  • Is your senior management really on board or is this just the flavor of the month to get quick fix results?

  • Are you balancing direction with freedom?  Can you tell the "expert" that you'll take their opinion under advisement?

  • Is the resistance you're feeling from others simply resistance to change and trying something new, or can they tell common sense better than you can?

  • Have you asked for a "second opinion" from others who have already done this?


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Andrew B. Clark

So here comes the big, left-brainer comment...

I've never been big on systems, I hate structure. More, I hate FORCING structure. But when it comes to marketing and branding, my job requires at least a framework (lose at best).

Do we work clients through the same framework? Yes. Are the results always the same? HECK no.

The systematized zealots out there are like little Linus (think Charles Schultz) at an Grateful Dead concert -- and their rigid, frigid, structured, security blanket of procedure is clutched tight in their sweaty little fists... All while not able to see past the lack of structure... visionless, passionless and boring. They don't (or refuse to) see the unique experience of each individual (been there and it IS unique).

Life wasn't meant to be lived without structure. But to do EVERYTHING someone (Oprah, Six-Sigma Consultants, et al) says is (as you put it) myopic...

Great post!

Keep Cooking - tasty conversation...
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef

Pete Jones - Desmoinesisnotboring

I have a hard time believing people actually try to live their lives like someone else does/did. That just seems ridiculous to me because no two people are the same. Not to mention, in this example, one is a multi-gazillionaire as you so eloquently pointed out. But, I guess we are in a society no one ever loses, or has to think on their own...so why not? I should start a live like me Blog...of course most people wouldn't make it through the day. :)

Jann Freed

Tim--Since I am an Oprah fan, I love this post. Thanks for sharing the links. I will check it out. Are you aware of the podcast radio interviews on Oprah's website? She interviews authors usually such as Dan Pink and each is about 30 minutes--perfect to show in classes and FREE. Take care. Jann

Crysta Wille

Reply to Andrew Clark--I just finished a 3 day lean event for Six Sigma and your comments about myopic vision and a rigid security blanket made me laugh out loud. What I also observed is that the process IS their project and there is no take away tasks for the Master Black Belt. Priceless.

Timothy Johnson

Andrew - I agree with Crysta, your comments are spot on. And I am still giggling about the image of Linus at a grateful dead concert

Pete - I've seen how dedicated you are to training. I couldn't keep up

Jann - sorry to deflate your hero, albeit ever so slightly

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