Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > Perception and reality; are they mutually exclusive? Discuss.

Perception and reality; are they mutually exclusive? Discuss.

It’s a funny old world at times. People talk about their rights; their right to be told; their right to the truth and all that, but what is it that they want to know? What is the truth, and will they believe it?

Over the years that I have trod the planet I have had, at times, to judge. I have been a soccer referee, I have done jury service, I have investigated accidents, I have investigated complaints and grievances, I have interviewed people for jobs and promotion, I have judged for awards and I have been a parent.

In all of these roles I have had to arrive at decisions and to decide what I believe to be right, or wrong. Judgement and experience play their part and, yes, I have made mistakes. At least, in the case of some decisions that I have made, I know in hindsight, that I made my decision on the basis of something that I now know was not as I believed it to be at the time.

People will believe what they want to. Take the flat earth mob; there was clear evidence that the world could not be flat, but they believed it for a long time after some had realised the truth (it isn’t round either of course). Conspiracy theorists love to ignore the reality that many others hold true, and there are those who will always believe in an ulterior motive for any action.

People’s expectations can colour their judgement significantly. Take the Obama situation. He was swept to power on a wave of optimism and yet now is rated possibly the worst US president. Is he really that bad? Almost certainly not, but compared with expectations the gap is so big. The bloke probably didn’t have a chance from the start; he was never going to live up to the hype.

When we put in place business deals, we set out all of our expectations in the form of a contract, we have key performance indicators and service level agreements and all those fine things, so we are going to be basing our monitoring of service delivery against reality aren’t we? Well we usually think so, but how many times does it all go wrong? We’ve seen a high profile one in recent weeks where two big organisations have parted company only a couple of years into a contract.

So what is the problem? I see it as one of not having used the right base for the agreement. The usual basis for working things out is on the basis of prior experience plus what we think that we want in future. The first problem is in measuring; that hackneyed old phrase “if you can’t measure, you can’t manage” gets trotted out without any understanding of what that means. Measures get taken from what can be measured rather that what should be measured, and then, because there is the desire to compare year on year, and to prove that the new contract is an improvement, it will be the same measures as last time.

I’ve been placed in the position of being drafted in the manage contracts like this. You can turn up at the review meeting and show that you’re delivering what the contract demands, but in the full knowledge that it isn’t what the client needs, or that you are delivering the latter, but failing the contract.

Perception and reality. They can be the same, but only once we get clients and suppliers working towards the right sort of deals and measures. We’re not there yet.

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