Andrew Bass’s Pragmatics Newsletter May 2014

Practical techniques and thought-provoking ideas

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There’s a wry piece of medical humour to the effect that “The operation was a success, but the patient died.”

In the military, they make a closely related point:”No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” They use the reminder that “the other side gets a vote”, and therefore doesn’t have to respond the way you think they will (any more than customers or competitors have to).

What this means for your business is that if you have a fixed plan which you carry out to the letter, with discipline and without deviation, you will get an unpredictable result.

On the other hand, to fix the result with any predictability, you will need to vary your approach in response to feedback. If you don’t, you place your strategic goals at risk.

Some questions to consider:

  • How quickly do you know if plans – especially lower down the ‘cascade’ – are failing to move you in the right direction?
  • Do you have mechanisms to respond to such feedback and adjust? Do those mechanisms have the resources and authority needed? Or are plans, once fixed, effectively cast in stone for the year?
  • Is the basic assumption that plans will work as published, or are there disciplined processes for putting monitoring and contingent actions in place?

Ultimately, are people rewarded – formally or informally – for following the steps of the operation regardless, or for saving the patient?


© 2014 Andrew Bass. All Rights Reserved.

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