A strategy articulated by the most beautiful and elegant diagram of neatly-fitting geometric shapes is often laid waste by the less elegant actions of totally ungeometrically-shaped and unpredictable objects.
The military’s long known this. The noted and successful Prussian general military strategist Von Clausewitz based much of his strategy work on it. (See the post on the excellent book, “The Art of Action“).
Yet I see leadership team after leadership team get so embroiled in their powerpoints and spreadsheets that they start to confuse them for reality.
And then think the strategy was all wrong as soon as they discover that reality doesn’t have bottom-aligned boxes.
We’d do well to remember that the map is not the territory (Alfred Korzybski). That the word is not the thing (Alfred again!). Or that the menu is not the meal (Alan Watts).
The diagrams are useful. The spreadsheets can be useful. But always with the proviso that they are models – not reality nor accurate forecasts of the future.
To get to our destination, the map or strategy is useful (nearly essential, I’d argue). But we need to be constantly sensitive to the humans, the organisational structures and motivations, and emotions as we go. And to remember that especially in matters human, as the Swiss Army proverb goes, “When the terrain disagrees with the map, trust the terrain.”
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