What a question.

It appeared in this post from the informal, slang-filled, business site called Trizle (I recommend it — a great jolt of reading at 30 seconds a day). The question hit me between the eyes.

Does anyone ever ask this? I’ve not seen it very often. Sure, there are senior executive strategy sessions that generate a nice little printable SWOT analysis that gets thrown into a binder and put right next to last year’s strategy binder. But, do these sessions really get to the core of what’s going on and, if they do, do they lead to the actions necessary to make it all better? I’ve always hated the statement “knowing is half the battle”, because I believe that, while knowing might be half the battle, you’re still dead if you don’t fight the other half.

Bad economy or great economy, we’re in global knock-out-drag-out fight for resources. If you don’t compete, you don’t win (or even get to stay on the field). That means that you don’t get the sale, you don’t get the donor, you don’t get the legislation passed. People lose jobs, companies close, mortgage payments get missed and it’s game over. The company/non-profit organization/public recreation center/corner doughnut shop dies, right along with the income and jobs. Them 1, you 0.

Discussing the issue is tough — the death of our job, the death of our organization — those are big scary things we just don’t like to think about. Senior managers don’t like the question either, so they bury their heads in operational issues while completely neglecting strategy. When the time comes to lay people off, close a plant, make people work more hours for less pay, outside factors are almost inevitably cited as the culprit. You’ll never hear a manager say, “I was asleep at the wheel, running away from my real job (understanding and fixing the real problems), waiting for everything to blow over. My bad.”

Be a better leader. Ask this question of yourself, your department, and your organization. Write down the answers. Take action to fix the problems. To do otherwise is not only to ignore your responsibility, it is putting other people’s lives at risk.