In search of the unintended consequence
I like the analogy of a dog chasing a car tyre. He chased after the larger cars forgetting his size (like a Scottish terrier taking on the big boys). Eventually, a car slowed down enough for the dog to catch the tyre. What he forgot is that the car kept on moving with the dog trailing along. One can extrapolate this to a dog catching a tyre and suddenly find himself attached to a bus.
We get into situations demanding positions to achieve our objectives or projects that seem to enable us to deliver on organizational objectives. We should understand what we are asking for and consequences when the wish comes through.
One would find many mangers overwhelmed when the bus takes them along, not being able to control their environment any longer. They could chose one of freeze, flight or fight attitude to cope with the situation. The former can be seen in organizations when managers are incapable in making decisions. They suddenly get involved in huge amounts of detail (as was require from their previous positions) and lose the overview that the new position requires. A flight attitude can be seen when e-mails are sent to their bosses for approval of things that are in their mandate – so who has the monkey on their shoulder. A fight attitude can be identified when a position is taken – whether through principle or fact- that keeps organizational momentum.
Obviously, it is better to have all the facts, but then quite often facts do not provide sufficient grounds for decision-making in complex situations. It would probably still be better to do something than to wait for it to be done to you. Action (and watching for reactions in the organization) can then be said to be a way of determining what really needs to be done.
Having said that awareness of possible consequences and trying to mitigate against the unexpected one’s become one of the key skills of our leadership.