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Pragmatism

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IN

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BIGGER PICTURE

Dirk Frame // Partner / Europe //

d.frame@tacook.com

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

possible.

• An understanding of the subject helps, but having

encyclopedic knowledge probably won’t make you

many friends.

• 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

among colleagues.

• 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.

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Photo: Ralph A. Clevenger/CORBIS