Why Jack’s Strategy Was Flawed

If you’ve ever heard the children’s fable, “Jack and Jill,” then you’ll know that the fable ends with Jack having what might be a critical head injury, while Jill has plenty of bumps and bruises herself on account of following Jack back down the hill… and not on foot. Neither one of them end up with the bucket of water they so eagerly went up the hill to get.

Can you imagine heading up a hill for something as simple as a bucket of water, only to end up with injuries and an empty bucket?

Seems ludicrous, right? Well what if I was to tell you that this exact situation may be happening in your organization today — would you believe me?

During a recent strategy session I was facilitating for a client, I recognized signs of this fable coming to life. I’m not daydreaming about children’s fables during my work; this actually came to me before the session during some attendee interviews. I recognized that with many long-standing employees in the group, senior leaders were actually predicting outcomes and preparing themselves to succumb.

Succumb to the rants of those who would rant.

Succumb to the objections of those who object.

Succumb to mindless analysis of those who over analyze.

Being prepared to succumb to the actions, ideas, and responses of others is fine, but not if it influences what you believe or what you think is right.

To shake up the group and avoid anyone falling into this trap (and the strategy falling into the category of less than compelling), I worked with the CEO to create two key ground rules for the session, namely:

1. Everyone was asked to document and park his or her ideas at the start of the session (we asked them to park the ideas after they had documented them and they had been fully presented to the group). In doing so we could give participants the satisfaction that they had been able to fully discuss their fixed notions.

2. For every fixed position that was suggested by a participant during the session, an opposing point of view was created. If someone suggested an idea that they were absolutely fixated on, the group would identify an opposing view and then fully assess both ideas. The outcome was either full support of the initial idea, or enough evidence that suggested to everyone (including the person who introduced it) that possibly there was a different idea.

These might seem like simple solutions, and they are. Moreover, you might guess that this took additional time in order to formulate the strategy, and you’d be right again. But isn’t the point of a strategy to ensure that voices are heard, sacred cows are aired, and new ideas are formed? You can’t achieve the latter if you don’t address the former.

Then again, you could wait for everyone to follow Jack, only to find that he couldn’t achieve the simple objective of obtaining a bucket of water…

© Shawn Casemore 2016. All rights reserved.

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.