The Game Changes as You Play - by the Nightshade Fairy
This is the fifth article where we are applying poker strategy to our career game plan. Last time we looked at hubris and how so many poker and careerists overrate their poker and career decision-making ability. We're all allowed to make mistakes, but re-doing mistakes when we should know better is also a form of hubris that we should avoid.
Today we are returning to wisdom from Mike Caro, the Mad Genius of Poker, and applying one of his insights to our careers. Let's talk about how unprofitable it is to get your money's worth.
Has this ever happened to you? You've been at a company for a while and figured out how to use the computer systems and the political systems to get work done. Along comes a New Manager. Your New Manager changes things, perhaps by getting rid of antiquated software or insists that people have to go through New Manager if they have work for you to do. Nuts to that, you think. You've spent so much time learning the old computer systems and figuring out the old company politics that no way are you going to change. But change does happen when New Manager brings in new staff, and you're laid off because you're an antique.
Nightshade has seen this so many times in the workplace when helping companies "implement process," I'll pass along one of the few constants you'll ever encounter about basic human behavior: human beings are creatures of habit, and anything that changes our routine or environment, even if necessary to survive, we fight against simply because it is a change. Once the change is over, we've adapted to the new routine, and complained profusely to everyone, we then settle down and get back to work.
Which leads us to Caro's next advice.
Advice # 5 - What you've already invested doesn't matter. At the poker table, this way of thinking is devastating to the amount in your bankroll. A poker player thinks, "Well, I've invested $100 already in the pot, but even though the game has changed and my hand is now weak, I've Invested So Much Already, I'll just continue to bet and hope to win."
Don't do this.
Let's look at Texas Hold'em as an example. Texas Hold'em has four distinct stages during a round. Every player is dealt two "private" cards face down. Everyone bets, raises, or folds based on the strength of their two cards. The dealer then puts three cards face-up in the middle of the table (called the "Flop") and everyone who is still in the game bets, raises, or folds based on the combination strength of their two down cards and the three in the flop. In other words, the game has changed. Two cards that were strong before the Flop may now be weak after the Flop. Continuing to play these cards is a Bad Decision.
Here's another example. Let's say that you spent $5K on a top-of-the-line desktop computer. It's a lovely thing, fast like a striking serpent, and the contoured cabinet draws glances of envy from your geek friends. The very next week the new model comes out, cutting the value of your computer to half of its original value. Someone offers to buy your desktop beauty for $3K. Would you sell it for a $500 profit at the new price?
The original $5K you invested doesn't matter - the computer will never have that value again. The game has changed. What is now the profitable decision?
Let's look at a real life career example.
A New IT Executive had spent over eight months building a new IT department from scratch. Careful selection of new and existing IT managers, setting up situations to get them to "gel" and do great things, were well on the way to success.
Then New IT Executive made a Bad Decision.
New IT Executive brought in a crony, a temperamental Techie know-it-all, who was so abrasive to the six existing managers that none of us could figure out how to gel with Techie. Techie complained and found fault with everything that each of us existing managers had done - a sure way not to make allies.
There were many improvements that the six existing managers had made during our tenure with New IT Executive. A technical research group had created robust web architectures. Others implemented repeatable change control to existing products. Yet another cleaned up the legacy databases resulting in high-quality content and more reliable operations. And another manager implemented a sensible network infrastructure for company operations and products. All six of us existing managers had also made personal contributions to our employer's "IT pot" by investing lots of unpaid overtime, providing free food to the team, and other sacrifices.
Sometimes you can't help but wonder about the hold that some people have over others. New IT Executive disregarded the negative impact that Techie had on the IT department and decided to keep Techie in a position of power.
What happened? Five of the six IT managers choose to fold their hand and leave the company in short order, even though each one of us had a lot invested in the pot. Why? Because the game had changed, of course. Our previously strong hands (and successful hands in turning the shambles into something resembling a good IT department) were now very weak, and only New IT Executive knows why. Or maybe hubris clouded New IT Executive's thinking, and no one knows why a promising IT department was sacrificed for a jackass.
Mike Caro's advice in this area is very clear. In life, it doesn't matter how much money, how much time, how much effort you have invested in a project. Calculating how much you have personally "invested" in the pot before making a decision about whether to bet or fold will damage your bankroll. The same goes for your career.
Next time we will talk about why Nightshade likes vultures.
Mike Caro's web site and the inspiration for this article is at http://www.poker1.com.