Imagine you run a large organization confronted with a future-critical, one off, Big Strategic Decision. The consequences may be dramatic, but the strategy itself has not been articulated properly yet, and has, in fact, being left to a binary choice: A or B options.
Imagine that you have not allocated enough time to debate it with your key leaders. Actually, you had made a previous decision that you would involve the entire work force in that decision. So that is what you do.
Inevitably, the workforce cannot grasp the possible consequences of the decision because, as I said, it has been left as a binary A or B. After all, you thought, it would be much easier for people to deal with the choices at the time of the decision. Clear. But, in the absence of substance for a debate for such a large audience, two polarized camps, as polarized as the options, the A and the B, compete on arguments. The B camp says the strategy will be good for everybody because it will mean more jobs, more money, more autonomy and, in fact, will deal with most of the things that are wrong at the moment. The B camp would go as far as explaining the amount of money that you will make in B, and would state, unchallenged, that you will be 200 pounds or dollars or euros at month better off. Camp A disagrees but instead of challenging those arguments, says, unchallenged, that B would be simply a disaster.
At some point the work workforce votes and the B option wins by 52%.
As the big boss of that organization, you decide to go for B, dismissing the fact that you have 48% of the work force against. Also, your own leaders are strongly in favour of A. Had you left it to them, the ones you pay for representing the interests of both the company and the employees, for making judgments and leading, you would have gone for A. But you declare B. The arithmetic is the arithmetic.
In declaring victory for B, people in both sides ask you for the spelling out of ‘the B strategy’. Other divisions of the company ask you to explain that strategy. Other companies which will be impacted by that decision say, OK, show us the plans. But, you have a problem, there isn’t one. You don’t have one. You don’t have a strategy and you don’t have plans. You have a list of unfounded, misleading, zero evidence based and magical thinking list of promises which all-together means B. And, yes, you want to be crystal clear, B means B. 52 is a bigger number than 48 and that’s it.
Your Board calls you to account and you need to disclose that you don’t have a B strategy, that your leaders want A, the arguments behind the no-debate have been a mix of misleading facts and cavalier promises, the truth had been twisted, 48% of the workforce is seriously pissed off (OK, you did not say that), and you don’t have much else to say other than B means B.
You are fired.
Unless you are in the political class in the UK in which case you join the government.
Brexit is not simply a piece of British politics, which will define the history, and the future of the Union, but a major contribution to Strategic Studies. The term ‘Brexit Strategy’ means now a grandiose strategy which book has a title but no content. And in the Geographical Expeditions Manual means a way to go somewhere with no map, no resources, no plans and no definition of ‘somewhere’.
It will also make its way to the Annals of Critical Thinking, Democracy and Philosophical Pragmatism, but only for the wrong reasons. It will also figure prominently as an example of the Post-Truth era in which we all live, where everything that is true melts in the air, and you can get away with the smoke.
These are wonderful times for the critical mind.
PS. Frequently, these Daily Thoughts make their way into Linkedin articles which are seen by large audiences. Not this time. Last time I posted an article critical of Brexit and declared at the same time my love for the country I have been living in as an adopted citizen for 30 years, a stream of comments invited me to leave the country, and many other ‘ad hominem’ that I don’t want to repeat. So, no, this time, I will leave it with my Daily Thoughts audience who knows that I am making no political arguments here. Zero. I am talking critical thinking, large scale mobilization of people, leadership and behaviours. My professional territories.
Incidentally, one of those comments said I should go back to my country or join the BBC, a wonderful piece of binary choice as well, which I will remember all my life. What a fantastic ballot paper that A or B would look like.
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