A lesson in execution through communication

Communication without an organized feedback mechanism to check on the execution of the order is Japanese for ‘Lost in Translation’ #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

When General Eisenhower was elected president, his predecessor, Harry S. Truman, said: “Poor Ike; when he was a general, he gave an order and it was carried out. Now he is going to sit in that big office and he’ll give an order and not a damn thing is going to happen.”

Peter Drucker’s theory of why Harry Truman concluded that “not a damn thing is going to happen” is, however, not that generals have more authority than presidents. It is that military organizations learned long ago the futility in most orders and organized the feedback to check on the execution of the order. They learned long ago that to go oneself and look is the only reliable feedback.

All a president is normally able to mobilize—are not much help. All military services have long ago learned that the officer who has given an order goes out and sees for himself whether it has been carried out. At the least he sends one of his own aides—he never relies on what he is told by the subordinate to whom the order was given. Not that he distrusts the subordinate; he has learned from experience to distrust communications – which generally have a propensity to get lost in translation.

I’m sure there’s a parallel in here to startups and corporate organisations alike. A lesson in execution. Don’t hold the illusion that communication will lead to execution.

To go and look for oneself is also the best, if not the only, way to test whether the assumptions on which a decision had been made are still valid or whether they are becoming obsolete and need to be thought through again. And one always has to expect the assumptions to become obsolete sooner or later. Reality never stands still very long.

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