People and processes

子曰:「為命:裨諶草創之,世叔討論之,行人子羽修飾之,東里子產潤色之。」
Confucius said: “Whenever a government edict needed to be written, Pi Chen prepared the first draft, Shi Shu reviewed and revised it, Ziyu, the head of protocol, edited it, and Zichan of Dongli gave it a final polish.”

Confucius was a great admirer of Zichan, the prime minister of Zheng (鄭國) from 544 BC until 522 BC who drove the implementation of extensive government, agriculture, business, and social reforms in the state.

Zichan was a skillful diplomat who managed to keep his small state independent despite being surrounded by powerful neighbors that only required the slightest provocation to invade and occupy it.

Given his many achievements, it’s not surprising therefore that Zichan was also a highly-effective leader with the ability to judge the skills and characters of his officials and employ them in the right capacities. As a result, he was able to build a smooth-running bureaucratic machine that worked as a harmonious team in the effective execution of his reforms.

There’s a lesson here for the many “visionary” government and business leaders who promise that they will change the world. Grand ideas are worth nothing at all if you don’t have the people and processes in place to deliver on it.

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