This post is an exploration of some thinking I have been doing over past several weeks on the issues of uncertainty, decision making, and getting it right in one’s life. In fact at any level of human life.
I went to meet a very dear friend today (Peter Lee of Tekara Organizational Effectiveness) and proposed the following question:
“How do you know if we have made a “great” choice on how to live as a: person, professional, organization, and society?”
I suggested that we look particularly at this question from an organizational perspective (i.e., do we have a great strategy?). I shared with him my thoughts and these included:
* we achieve our goals
* we find psychic/emotional value in these achievements
* we have the capacity to continuously grow and evolve under our choice/strategy
* we accept our responsibilities/obligations and attendant accountabilities/consequences
* and, we deal with hardships with skill, grace and secure selfworth.
Peter and I were most intrigued and spent the most time discussing this last point about hardships. My thinking is that a great life/strategy choice would be able to standup and even enable us to be opportunistic as the vicissitudes of future experiences occur.
The ancillary question I asked: “When you and others you know do strategy, do you explore with them how their strategy will standup to hardships?” He responded that this is not a typical practice. I was not unduly surprised. I consider Peter as sophisticated and skillful in strategy as any consultant I know.
The next question was of course:”Would there be much value (to clients) in making it a more consistent practice?” Peter was quick to think that it could very well be.
I got to the original matter of dealing with hardships through two series of experiences. first I have been fascinated by the whole issue of uncertainty and risk (as readers of this Blog are aware). Secondly, we have been experiencing in our family some personal hardships. Any of us who have lived for any length of time know that hardships are going to be part of our lives, what varies are degree, magnitude and substance of these hardships. So if this applies at the personal level, why wouldn’t we suppose that they touch us at other levels too (organizational and societal)?
I think that hardships are excellent examples of how uncertainty makes itself present in our lives. These are the proverbial whacks in the side of the head. These are the surprises in our lives. Just because a surprise is something we can rationalize away after its occurrence we in fact did not see it coming (or we would have gotten out of the way ahead of time).
Let us think about this from an organizational perspective and view it through the lens of risk and/or uncertainty management. In previous posts (Strategy: How Organizations help us Manage Uncertainty into Risks, Strategy: part 2 – How Organizations help us Manage Uncertainty into Risks) I explore how we organize our operations to treat vicissitudes as risk management ones and when we do strategy work we are dealing with uncertainty in our organizations’ lives.
The issue of risk management is that of dealing with variances. we look for deviance from some expected norm, standard, safe operating parameter. The tools we use often are based on significance within a stochastic/judgement framework.
The issue of uncertainty management is that of dealing with the unexpected, unexperienced, the surprise. If we adopt a Nassim Taleb oriented view of uncertainty we are dealing with the limits of our experience, knowledge and comprehensibility. At best we can see some “swans” as grey ones (black ones are by definition virtually invisible and out of our sense of possibility). How do we deal with grey swan events? we pay particular attention to outliers, surprises, “should not be happening” like events. This is why, astute strategists always establish useful leading indicators around their critical strategic assumptions.
So when we look at how we can best show up in dealing with hardships. skill is the critical component: know how to look at the environment, AND, pay attention to the evidence, AND, respond appropriately. Even in risk management these prescriptions apply: think of someone you know who has run out of fuel while driving and the fuel gauge was working properly. At least speaking for myself, my capacity to ignore what I don’t really want to pay attention to is a major competency on my part (sarcasm intended).
In the next post on this topic, I will explore how to position ourselves to be able to appreciate our life choice outcomes.