Keep advancing until you take enemy fire…. how to measure impact.

20131029-212250.jpgAdvancing until you meet fire from the ‘enemy’ is a very effective way of gauging if you have had any impact. It’s not the only measure, but it is a cast iron indicaton that you have stirred something up.

I have to thank a former colleague (Howard) for telling me about this. He explained how a colleague (with significant military experience) had used this expression when describing how change and other initiatives might be considered in  a ‘civilian’ organisation. I very much like the analogy (and it also gave me an opportunity to dig out some old Commando Comics from the attic).

Obviously this can be a high risk occupation. Enemy fire can have lethal (or career limiting) consequences. So, the approach should be handled with respect and some understanding of whether the risks and consequences are worth the prize.

Here are a few pointers for organisational skirmish planning.

Battle / Skirmish Plan Objectives:  These can be the objectives of anything different you what to introduce. A minor change in a routine work process or a major restructuring of departments and new job descriptions. The thing to remember is that some people will not like the idea of change, and will resist it. These people have the potential to become ‘enemies’, and nobody needs enemies.

Who are the enemy?  This is a tricky question. The ‘it will never happen here’, ‘over my dead body’ individuals are relatively straightforward. The ‘malicious compliance’ crowd and the saboteurs are more difficult to deal with. You just don’t know when and where the hostile fire is coming from. The point is to be vigilant and ready to respond.

What does ‘enemy fire’ look like? As above, the very obvious direct attacks are something you can sense and respond to. Less easy are the acts of saboteurs. For organisational life it is worth developing a ‘spot the saboteur’ checklist. Other indicators like telling tales and malicious gossip are also worth looking out for.

How to respond when you are under fire? There are a range of choices here, ranging from ‘meet fire with fire’ or ‘open peace talks’. Crushing the opposition with superior firepower is a temping option, but should only be used in extreme circumstances.  Better in my view to engage in peace talks.

A consequence of advancing to meet enemy fire has been to ‘flush out’ those that are not happy with what is going on. Now you know who these people are you can have a discussion with them. Get a better understanding of what they think, what concerns them and understand why they were shooting at you? This is a great opportunity to learn from each other, find some common ground and advance together.

At the end of the day these people are ‘friendlies’, not real enemies (they work for the same organisation as you). They just got a bit jumpy with the speed of your advance and their fingers just ‘slipped’ on the trigger.

So, what’s the PONT?

  1. Any form of disruption to ‘business as usual’ will generate a reaction.
  2. If the reaction is ‘enemy fire’ you know you have made an impact and have contact with the people who are most concerned about the disruption.
  3. Use the contact to engage and open up ‘peace talks’.

Picture Source: Commando Magazines

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here:

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