It’s Hard To Know What To Do Until You’ve Done It


Tuesday, 7.08pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Major organizational changes create uncertainty. But the point is to move quickly – faster than you are comfortable – because in hindsight, you will always wish you had made changes even sooner. – Irene Rosenfeld

I’ve been reading the Economist for a change, because it’s a little more effort to get the Financial Times. I had forgotten how well written articles are in that publication and I want to reflect on one particular piece on enquiries.

Things go wrong. Little things and big things, and when they do one of the options a government has is to run a public enquiry. This study has to serve several purposes, say what when wrong, who made a mistake, help the victims and try and change things. It’s not an easy thing to do and the people who run them have to know what they’re doing.

But who do you get? It’s often judges that are used who are great at fact finding but not so good at telling you what to do next. In fact not many people could probably tell you what to do next, but they could tell you what to do to avoid what happened. Which won’t happen the same way again for a while.

What’s interesting is that the starting point, according to the Economist, is usually a discussion over the terms of reference – what are we going to look at and what are we going to do?

I’m not a particularly prescriptive person because I don’t know what’s going to happen. But once you’ve tried something out then prescriptions start to get important. If you know that you need to do something in a certain way then you need to make that clear – somehow – in policy, in writing, you’ve got to get across what you want.

The thing is that even if you do that you won’t know if it’s going to work. People can read what you say and then go off and do their own thing. Looking at problems and then suggesting changes is one thing, but you don’t know if it’s helped until it gets tested in real life.

A better approach, according to Economist, might be to run drills, stress tests – something like a mock cyber attack so you can see if your defences work. That’s how the Scouts introduce young people to fire safety – by writing a plan and doing a drill.

Maybe that’s what we need a lot more in different areas of business.


Karthik Suresh

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