I recently started watching The Recruit on Netflix based on some buzz I had been hearing about the show, as well as a few word-of-mouth recommendations. The first episode left me feeling inexplicably angry, but those are setup episodes and I tend to give them a lot of leeway. Laying down the foundation, like an introductory paragraph to an essay, is not easy to do and be simultaneously entertaining.
It was during the second episode that my anger became explicable. It was not outright anger — more a feeling of frustration mixed with a bit of WTF?!
The spoiler-free description of the show is that it focuses on a very young lawyer for the CIA — fresh out of law school and only three days on the job. He gets involved in a complicated spy game armed mostly with his silver tongue and some shady colleagues. Sounds good, right? Most of that works for me, which is why it took a second episode to figure out what was ticking me off.
Essentially, it is all Matt Bernath’s fault.
Matt is wrapping up his first year as a columnist for Residential Systems where he has provided insights into the VITAL way of handling a custom installation business. In fact, shortly before I started The Recruit, I was reading Matt’s column for this very issue. The topic of that column, which you can read here, is accountability and how important it is for a dealer’s business.
The CIA as it is depicted in The Recruit is run directly against Matt’s advice and makes a strong case for accountability, as it does not look effective even in a fictional world where they are the good guys. (At least I hope it is fictional — if the real CIA was run in such a way I think it would implode in a week.)
Here are some examples of what I am talking about: Our young lawyer’s boss wants results, but does not want to know how he gets them so the boss can have plausible deniability. The boss is also unclear about what he wants done, but stern in the fact that he wants results. It is pretty clear that he will take credit for any success and throw the recruit to the wolves for any failure.
Okay, so he has a bad boss. Surely his coworkers can help him though. No — they are even worse. They send him out into the field without preparing him, knowing it will get him tortured (yes, you read that right), and when he comes back to the office to call them out on it, they clink their coffee cups in celebration behind his back.
I’m getting angry again just writing about it.
In this please-be-fictional CIA, the only way to advance is at the expense of others. They have staff meetings where they all talk in code so “their stuff does not blow back on anyone else in the room.” So, why even have the staff meeting?
If you do watch The Recruit — and I will probably continue to see how the spy parts play out and gloss over the lousy management parts — and you recognize any business practices shared with your own, it is time to rethink and retool.
Fortunately, all of Matt’s VITAL Business Tips columns are on this site, so you can see how a real company should be run.