Yes, I know. Dr. House is dysfunctional; childish; addicted to Vicodin; and treats his employees, friends, even his boss and ex-girlfriend like pawns that exist solely for his amusement. But you have to look past all that and see the big picture. That’s not just a key point of the show, it’s also one of the …
5 Management Lessons From TV’s House
Focus on the big picture and a handful of top priorities. This is precisely why micromanagers fail. They’re not just annoying, irritating, and demotivating. There’s simply not enough time in the day to be a successful micromanaging control freak. Instead, good managers learn to see the big picture and focus on a handful of key priorities. Also, it’s important to remember that even the brightest stars have dark spots. Don’t dwell on them.
It’s all about trouble-shooting. So much of management is troubleshooting and that calls for differential diagnosis. It’s a process of elimination, starting with the most likely causes of the problem and then eliminating them one at a time while keeping everything else constant. Sometimes it means reproducing an intermittent problem in the same manner. I’ve used the technique in engineering, marketing, sales, all kinds of management and organizational systems. It’s a big part of management success.
Everybody lies. That’s right; it’s a major premise of the show. Don’t pretend to be surprised; we all do. We have our rationalizations and justifications but we all tell white lies, even if just to get out of doing something we don’t want to do. According to surveys, roughly half of managers and employees lie or misstate facts for various reasons. Why is that important? Savvy business people know to look beneath the surface and do their due diligence before making big decisions or commitments.
Sometimes, the ends do justify the means. Now, before I get dozens of nasty comments from all you “holier than thou” ethics experts out there, note that I said, “sometimes.” For example, in a life or death situation - human or corporate - it’s sometimes okay to break a few rules or sidestep a few niceties, as long as you’re not breaking the law or doing anything amoral or unethical. And yes, that dilemma does come up a lot in management, which brings us to our next lesson …
It’s often better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Rules and processes are there for a reason, to improve the overall effectiveness of an organization and create some semblance of order out of chaos. That said, successful managers and leaders are always willing to stick their necks out and take some risks when they feel it’s necessary to get things done and do the right thing. If they’re right, they rarely suffer for those indiscretions. Always question the status quo and people who say, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”