on roadmaps

My loathing of management speak is well documented here and being asked, or more likely told, in any state of crisis to produce a “Roadmap” to recovery always made me seethe. Roadmap is a wonderful example of management speak; it is a great sound bite, short, snappy and seems to encapsulate a need in just the one word. Simple isn’t it?

The problem is that it is, in that sort of context, bollocks of the first order. A roadmap implies that someone has laid out all of the routes from where you are to where you need to be and all you have to do is choose one, but whilst you might know where you want to get to in a crisis you often don’t know exactly where you are starting from and that situation can change minute by minute let alone hour by hour and day by day. There are times when you can’t get your head out of the trench long for enough to see which direction the bullets are coming from.

You will have a crisis plan and another for disaster recovery and these should have been rehearsed and polished, but the real thing never perfectly matches the events that unfold and so you are working to stay on top of events as they unfold. It is a bit like finding your way out of a maze and there will be times when you have to back track, but if you think about it even a successful way out of a maze is full of u-turns. Information that points you one way today may well change to point you another way tomorrow and trying to get two experts to agree on something is a futile exercise. You need patience and tenacity along with the ability to react quickly to changes in circumstance.

At some point you will have come out the other side and there will always be a need for a drains up on what happened, but this should only be about learning not blaming. In all probability you will never face exactly the same situation again, but you can learn about what you did well and why and what you didn’t do well and why. Being able to improve your processes for gathering and managing information to aid the decision making process is crucial as is making sure that your communication channels work as well as they can.

Leaders need their people to believe in them and whilst the management speakers can sound good I have not yet met one who could actually deliver anything like as well as their words might imply. Most of them I would not have trusted to lead me out of a 50 metre cup-de-sac in broad daylight. Fine words might gain you some followers, but they will soon desert you for another you is actually delivering results. Ideas are great but actions are better. But someone on the sidelines spotting platitudes is a waste of space and the best thing that you can do is to not let them distract you.c

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