Mediocre managers make rules.
Mediocre communicators make (and remake) style guides.
Mediocre communication managers make strategic planning documents.
And yet, we all know that the best people in our business are good because they have good instincts, subtle minds and the courage of their convictions.
My friend, Pat McGuire, reads every book like it might be his last. Right now he's reading FDR, by Jean Edward Smith. In a letter to me—when he takes the subject seriously, Pat writes in longhand—he writes about FDR's famous first 100 days in 1933, during which the president repealed Prohibition, created the TVA and established the Home Owners Loan Corporation to slow foreclosures.
Was this part of a plan FDR had developed to deal with the great Depression? Not according to this book.
Pat writes: "[FDR] was improvising from crisis to crisis and savoring every minute. The legislation passed and the initiatives undertaken shaped the New Deal and decisively altered the nation's course. Yet each measure represented Roosevelt's nimble response to circumstance rather than any grand design. 'To look upon these policies as the result of a unified plan,' wrote [New Deal critic] Raymond Moley afterward, is 'to believe that the accumulation of stuffed snakes, baseball pictures, school flags, old tennis shoes, carpenter's tools, geometry books, and chemistry sets in a boy's bedroom could have been put there by an interior designer.'"
Rules, guides and plans are useful. But, especially in the sort of economic crisis our nation and our organizations are in at the moment, they are not all.