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Strategy in 4 Words – I Don’t Like It

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There has been a blog circulating on that I had to think long and hard about.  At the core, it’s a simple philosophy:  “minimize evil, maximize good.”  ((Haque, Umair, December 15, 2009.  “21st Century Strategy in Four Words.”  Retrieved from on December 20, 2009.))  First of all, if I were going to adopt this, I’d reprioritize and say “Maximize Good, Minimize Evil.”  But I would not adopt this.

I’m a firm believer that there is right and wrong.  There is always the right way to do something that challenges us philosophically, keeps us to our ideals, and makes us better people.  At the core, we all know what the right thing to do is if we really think about it.  Sometimes, the right thing to do may not align well with the idea of good and evil, however.  Right and wrong may be too judgmental, but if so, good and evil are even more judgmental.  I feel like I’m making pronouncements in a religious sense around abortion or gay marriage.  ((Sorry guys, I’m so far to the left that I would probably scare most of you.))

I’m trying to think of examples of right and wrong versus good and evil and what I come up with are things that scare employees.  I start with the most obvious to me, layoffs and/or outsourcing.  Organizations might pursue efficiency standards that that are right for the organization, but wrong for certain employees who would lose jobs to efficiencies or to another country like an IT shop in India.  I think about a decade ago when the guys working to unload cargo from ships in Long Beach California struck for a couple months.  Their basic tenet was that they didn’t want anyone in their union to lose jobs.  (I don’t remember the specific name of the union).  At risk here was the loss of jobs due to new technologies that could automate and make unloading events safer for all.  What in my mind is an obvious right (safety and automation) was deemed as an evil by this union since they would lose many jobs over the long term.  Even using the lens of training the union workers and making them more skilled and marketable was lost.

You can’t judge corporate strategy with the thought of good and evil.  Companies don’t thrive on trying to make sense of judgments at this level.  But there is a good middle ground probably.  You can decide that Green, while not always in the perfectly best interests of the shareholders is a corporate value and is the “right” thing to do.  Is it evil because shareholders have reduced dividends for 3 quarters while manufacturing plants retool themselves?  Sometimes our strategies at a corporate level are just too grey for any precision judgment, but once we know what our values are, we can decide how to apply them with diligence.

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