Many years ago, after completing the turnaround and handover of a troublesome major project to a difficult client, the Badger went on holiday in sunnier climes for some rest and recreation. His family had insisted on complete digital disconnection from the world of work during the break, and so the Badger was fully refreshed, keen to catch up with colleagues, and champing at the bit for another challenge on the first morning back at work after the holiday. Shortly after settling into a backlog of emails, however, the Badger’s phone rang – the CEO wanted to see him straight away. With some trepidation, the Badger immediately went to their office in another part of the building.
The CEO greeted the Badger jovially, ushered him to a sofa, and then got straight to the point. A major contract on the company’s routine monitoring list had suddenly escalated as having serious delivery and contractual problems. The CEO said that they were being inundated by different opinions about what had gone wrong and what action was needed. They used a phrase uttered by Clint Eastwood in the film ‘The Dead Pool’, namely ‘Opinions are like a**holes, everyone’s got one’’, to highlight their frustration that opinions were making it difficult to get to the facts they needed to decide a course of action that was in the company’s best interest. The Badger left the CEO’s office with a new task, namely, to establish the facts!
Having been involved in many problem situations, the Badger had already learned many things, two of which were pertinent to his new task. The first was that the cause of problems rarely sits with just one of line or project management, inter-business unit rivalry, financial controls, people issues, plans and processes, client relationships, requirement and engineering flaws, or contract ambiguities. It’s normally a combination of many of these factors. The second was that having a good grasp of the overall facts was essential to formulating a recovery strategy and action plan that had solid foundations. To get to the facts meant cutting through the opinions, half-truths, distortions, agendas, and finger-pointing of others, by being the completely objective grown up in the room.
So, if you find yourself having to make important decisions during the maelstrom of an escalating problem, then be steadfast, focused, and do what’s needed to ensure you take these decisions based on facts not opinions. Good leaders and managers remember that Nehru once said ‘Facts are facts and will not disappear on account of your likes’. Nehru died in 1964, but these words remain relevant in today’s world dominated by the clamour of instant opinion from social and mainstream media. Long-live decision-making based on facts, because without this the future is one of perpetually worsening chaos!