CEO Coaching: Eating Pig

I recently read the book “Spies: The Epic Intelligence War Between East and West” by Calder Walton. A good read that covers a broad swath of history, especially if you’re interested in spycraft.

The Bay of Pigs disaster was one of many events covered. You may recall that the Kennedy administration sent a handful of mercenaries into Cuba hoping to overthrow the Castro regime. It worked about as well as a screen door on a submarine. Kennedy eventually had to eat crow (er, pig).

Here was the problem:

·      The “management team” got worked up about something that was immaterial.

·      The planning process was poor.

·      They used bad intelligence to make their decision and plan the event.

·      The odds were insurmountable.

·      Emotions outstripped logic.

It occurred to me that this list of problems is like many business debacles, often in the realm of mergers and acquisitions. Logic subordinated to emotions, poor planning based on bad due diligence, and irrational assumptions about revenue growth or cost savings are the equivalent to the Bay of Pigs invasion. 

Here’s a list of questions that might help you avoid eating pork:

·      Is this really a material problem or opportunity? 

·      Does the potential reward substantially outstrip the risk?

·      How can we introduce more objectivity into our process?

·      Is there a detailed plan that allows for off-ramps?

·      Where is the greatest operational risk, and what can we do to ameliorate this?

·      What about this opportunity appeals to my emotions, and where is my blind spot(s)?

Leadership is about taking calculated risks, and it isn’t for wimps. But neither history, nor your shareholders, will treat you kindly for poor judgment and bad process. 

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