Recognizing Flawed Concepts


It was four years ago that Bush was photographed with the “Mission Accomplished” sign in the background. This photo opportunity marked the high point of the rhetoric. It was for others to suffer and continue to suffer the real consequences. However, even with politics aside, his concept was flawed from the beginning.

Incompetent conceptual planning brings failure at any scale—international, business, or personal. The flaws can initially be masked by rhetoric, emotion, or fabrication. However, sooner or later, the consequences are there for all to experience.

Even though the planners are often adept at disguising it, such incompetence is not difficult to recognize if there is an evaluation of a few key points.

Early recognition of the flaws can help to either correct the project before it gets underway or, at least, minimize the consequences to yourself and others.

These points can be used as a reality check both for politics and personal projects.

Three Points to Check

Clear Thinking

Clear thinking is missing if:

  • There is little expertise or experience in understanding the situation. (Further, it is worse if those with expertise are excluded.
  • There is fuzzy or deluded thinking. (One symptom of deluded thinking is that the ideas have not been tested by others.)
  • The proposal is a response to emotional issues or hidden agendas.

Flexibility

Flexibility is missing if:

  • New information is not considered as it becomes available.
  • Key assumptions may prove to be wrong.
  • Unforeseen events can not be accommodated.
  • There is no provision for making changes as events unfold.

Perspective

Perspective is missing if:

  • The concept is based on an individual perspective, usually viewed as superior
  • The concept does not account for the resources or different sensibilities of the different groups.

The difference in perspective can be seen by example. Consultants can not just instruct people who have lived under an authoritarian rule to hold elections and become a democracy. Cultural roots are much deeper and difficult to change. Such an approach is naive and simplistic.

All of this sounds like common sense. However, in the heat of the moment, it is too easy to barrel ahead without a reality check. These considerations can be used to slow down the process, ask a few explicit questions, and then proceed. It can be used to evaluate our leader’s ideas as well as personal projects.

A related post: Recognizing Incompetence Early–Pretending to be a Manager /

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