You Gotta Believe

“You gotta believe you can do it!” This time of year there are many motivational articles in newspapers and magazines. The self-help and motivational books all migrate toward the front of bookstores. Sales of Anthony Robbins material skyrocket. This information all boils down to more or less the same thing: You have to believe you can do it, or you will never do it.

The problem with this philosophy in the corporate world is that we often bite off more than we can chew. This is because we are either overly optimistic, a narcissist, an egomaniac, or are in executive management (in which case, it is all of the above).
Every undertaking has some amount of risk. Unfortunately, the risk part of a project gets swept under the excitement rug when putting together a plan. We are counseled: “Plan for success, not for failure.” Somehow this consultant-inspired sound bite translates into “Do not plan for contingencies.”
The thinking goes: If you have a back-up plan, then you will end up using it. Conversely, if you do not have a back-up plan you cannot use it.
Besides, why waste resources working back-up or contingency plans when those resources could be applied to the impossible overly optimistic plan.

I remember in business school that project management included a significant helping of risk mitigation and management material. As I recall, all good plans have some contingencies built in. Unexplainably, somewhere between the classroom and the boardroom, lobotomic ladder climbing transforms this knowledge into brass balderdash. “We are positive minded and do not plan for failure.” Unfortunately, in the real world, things go wrong.

Executives, enamored with always getting their way, demand success as if it can be dictated. “This schedule will be met.” And just to ensure nothing goes wrong, all contingency and back-up plans are removed.

This powerful philosophy could change business as we know it.
Now instead of paying for fire insurance, the building is fireproofed by simply removing all the fire extinguishers. Why waste all that money on warranty reserves? Heck, without warranties, the product will surely work perfectly. For that matter why have customer service? It is only there in case customers need help. Without customer service, no one will need any help.
Clearly, all those highway deaths are due to those extraneous air bags and seat belts.
Why use belay ropes or reserve parachutes?
Speaking of parachutes, it is interesting to identify who within the company has one of the golden variety.

“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. This is your CEO, er, I mean, Captain, speaking. We will be traveling aboard this new state of the art airliner. This plane is so advanced that it has absolutely no safety mechanisms thereby ensuring a problem-free and safe flight to our destination. We will be ready for take off… just as soon as I get these last buckles fastened on my parachute…”