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Posted: May 19, 2011

Erratic gizmos in the C-suite

The problem with being unpredictable

Todd Ordal

My brother and I have a long history of buying "gizmos" for each other for birthdays and Christmas. As an example, last Christmas I bought him a remote control flying helicopter with plastic missiles so he could torment his wife and the cat while sitting on the couch drinking a glass of wine. He bought me a weather kit with remote sensing capability for wind, rain, temperature and barometric pressure. I think that it will tell me what's for dinner, but haven't figured out that feature yet.

Imagine my enthusiasm several weeks ago when I got my "birthday box." I opened it and realized that he had the upper hand this year because it contained a robotic vacuum cleaner. I was mesmerized for several hours, watching it buzz around the room - and it saved me 15 minutes of work! The best part, however, was the cats' reaction! I haven't seen pupils that big since my wife stumbled upon a rattlesnake! They tolerated it when it moved in a straight line, but the seeming erratic and unpredictable movements really shook them up.

I knew the robot had an algorithm built in and was actually using logic, but they hadn't read the user's manual so were clueless.

I often overhear people complain about how stupid senior management is in their company. Sometimes they're right, but too often management might take good strategic action but forget to pass out the user's manual. No one bothered to tell them why they were doing what they were doing. If I hadn't known my new robotic friend was a vacuum cleaner, I would've been puzzled as to its purpose as it zigged and zagged around the room.

People in organizations deserve to frequently hear the whys of your actions. I was in a board meeting the other day, and a topic came up that affected the field organization greatly. One member suggested that the field needed to hear more of the details and the whys of what was going to take place. Another member said, "We told them about it months ago," as if that should be good enough. This "take a pill" management style is far too prevalent.

A communications expert whom I spoke with recently said data showed that CEOs should talk about the vision or strategy of their organization once a week if they wanted people to really understand.

As you zig and zag your way to success, have you given your cats the user's manual? Are you seen as unpredictable, or do your people know where you're going?
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Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at http://www.appliedstrategy.info,  303-527-0417 or todd@appliedstrategy.info

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Readers Respond

Another great "story" in the series. Thanks, Todd! By Jerry Comer on 2011 05 20
Todd, you have a gift for stories and humor. I've hung out with management consultants (some of my best friends) for decades and you are not only a brilliant corporate strategist, but the only one who has ever made strategy entertaining! By TC North on 2011 05 20
Thanks Carol! LIfe is so much more fun with humor--even strategy and leadership. Cheers Todd By Todd Ordal on 2011 05 20
Bravo, Todd. Well said with a sense of humor By Carol Alm on 2011 05 19

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