For the Confidence to Proceed in a Right Direction

By T. Cartter Frierson

One CEO imparted a universal truth to us at the start of an assignment, a concern shared by most managers. He said that his greatest worry was that it often takes one or two years to prove whether an expensive information technology plan was a good investment. We took his words to heart in 1977. His words constantly remind us to keep putting ourselves in our client's position. In fact in most instances the firm must decide whether to plow new ground, to go where it has never been before, to commit the firm's resources to a long-term project. Under these circumstances they are wise to involve outside expertise that has been there before.  How else can one develop the confidence to proceed in a right direction?

New York Times, often a critic of President Ronald Reagan, says this on Feb. 24, 1998, on their main editorial page:

"Mr. Reagan's great gifts are nonetheless worth celebrating. From the time of Teddy Roosevelt, only a handful of the nation's chief executives have pushed through their programs by sheer force of personality. At a time when many had concluded that the job was too much for one man to handle, he charted where he wanted to go, and thereby expanded the possibilities of the office itself."

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The secret lies in that last sentence:

"...he charted where he wanted to go, and thereby..."

Everyone understood that he was confidently committed to an overall, unifying direction for the country.

It is hard for anyone to follow a leader who does not communicate clear direction. Dennis the Menace once asked his neighbor, Mr. Wilson,

"How can I stay out off your way if I don't know which way your way is?"

So it is with many rapidly changing organizations today:

employees who do not know the way usually get in the way.

Change elevates the need to clearly communicate a right direction. Had President Reagan not believed in that direction, neither would anyone else.

Determining the right direction is just the first step.   In some assignments we found that someone in the firm had already identified the right direction but the organization lacked the experience to validate it, to vest confidence in their own findings.  Without the solid support of top management and the implementing team, most major information technology projects will founder.   The saddest situations we have seen are those in which we were called in after the firm had abandoned a right direction for lack of confidence! Jettisoning the right approach happens more often than anyone likes to admit.

Even the right strategy must be coupled with the resolve to "Go for it!" Resolve  stands upon confidence. The best of the latest methodologies -  total quality, teaming, and reengineering  - are all empowered by the confidence to proceed in a right direction.

Art God Bless America by Patty Frierson TWS