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Dirk Frame // Partner / Europe //firstname.lastname@example.org
Avoiding The Icebergs
It should be possible to combine the best aspects of all
these styles and traits to avoid the immense costs and
wasted resources which accompany sunk decisions.
The trouble is icebergs lurk everywhere and it can be
very foggy. Avoiding disaster requires communication
and an up-to-date chart. Fortunately, avoiding a ship-
wreck is easier than ever in today’s digital world. But to
achieve true success, managers need to improve com-
munication and develop a keen sense of empathy.
Here are some keys to success:
• Prepare for discussion and use facts whenever
• An understanding of the subject helps, but having
encyclopedic knowledge probably won’t make you
• Show empathy for the position of others, but don’t be
rolled over by vacuous oratory and hard-luck tales.
You can prepare for decision flexibility and still
be seen as a talented captain leading a loyal crew:
• Explain that there are options and take advantage
of the latest technology and information.
• Rent before you buy and focus on operational
efficiency before splashing out on new equipment.
• Foster a culture of dynamic decision-making
• Reward agility: the ability to change course
quickly and make adjustments in ETA ensures
that people will not get stuck after the last train
has left the station.
A Pragmatic Approach
The term “pragmatic” is generally taken to be reflective
of difficult circumstances or paucity of opportunity.
The principles of pragmatism are, however, universal
and should be seen in a more generous light. It would
be ill-advised to argue at any point in the business cycle
that one should not make the most of scarce resources
and use information wisely. Unfortunately, many org-
anizations reserve this approach only for the hard times
and are keen to flash the cash when the sun is shining.
When times are tough, it comes as a big surprise that
there is no money and the cupboard is bare. A decent
plan B and rough plan C should be a fundamental part
of any manager’s repertoire.
The collected wisdom of the world’s management man-
uals are of little value unless these fundamental behav-
iors drive the leaders and hence, the business. Prag-
matic approaches should be encouraged and its best
practitioners raised to key leadership roles. At times
it may be uncomfortable, but combined with the tradi-
tional competences of vision and strategic foresight, it
should be much easier to avoid a sunk decision culture.
Ignore these aspects and you could find that the chief
of firefighting is once again promoted to plug the leaks.
Just like throwing good money after bad, the term “sunk
cost decision making” refers to the process of carrying
bad decisions through to their logical conclusion, ac-
cumulating more problems, resentment and confusion
along the way.
Photo: Ralph A. Clevenger/CORBIS