(2022-04-09) Cohen Failure To Face The Truth Vs Four Books

Jason Cohen: Failure to face the truth. (Supported by 4 books.) A primary blocker of progress, from our personal lives to our corporate strategies, is a Failure to face the truth. “The truth hurts.” Yeah, so we avoid it. The truth is hard to find if we’re not looking for it, and we’re not

Once you start seeing the pattern of “failure to face the truth,” you see it everywhere.

In almost every meeting, someone is thinking something and not saying it, even though one of the best uses of a meeting is to unveil and discuss insights. In every strategy discussion, there’s a monster in the room no one will name, even though the point of strategy is to identify and then construct a battle plan against the monsters.

Radical Candor

“When you say ‘um’ every third word, it makes you sound stupid.” Not the feedback Kim Scott was hoping for after what she thought was a successful presentation to executives at Google

Scott is now famous for promulgating this philosophy of direct, honest, empathetic facing-of-the-truth in her book, Radical Candor. It starts with a foundation of personal trust

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Five Dysfunctions by Patrick Lencioni starts with the observation that great teams are built in layers, each requiring the ones below it to be effective

We must have enough trust in each other to face the truth, together. (cf Psychological Safety)

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy

Rumelt lists common hallmarks of bad strategy

His phrase “Failure to face the challenge” is my inspiration for “Failure to face the truth.” Strategy must identify and then address the most important and difficult facts-of-the-matter of the market, competitive space, customers, product, and team.

It’s scary to say “Our market is shrinking,” but if it’s true, and you refuse to identify it, if you don’t write it down that crisply, if you don’t challenge the company to come up with alternatives for how to address it, if you don’t build a strategy that expressly attacks it head-on, then it will be fatal.

Lazy language belies a deeper failure

There are traces of “failure to face the truth” even in Rumelt’s other bullets. Fluffy language is a personal peeve of mine. In the benign case it is simple laziness—avoiding the work of crafting prose by filling the requisite space on the page with jargon and generic phrases. In the worst case, it belies the lack of having thoughts in the first place.

it’s especially common in “vision” or “mission” statements

perhaps the company refuses to “face the truth” of what it really does, and who it really serves, where it’s really strong but also weak, afraid to say “no” to any potential customer.

Confront the brutal facts

In Good to Great, one of the most-cited books on the formula (if such a thing exists) for successful businesses, Jim Collins frequently returns to the story of A&P and Kroger

Kroger catapulted past A&P because, in Collins’s words, only Kroger was willing to “confront the brutal facts.”

A&P had a perfect model for the first half of the twentieth century … cheap, plentiful groceries sold in utilitarian stores. But in the affluent second half of the twentieth century, Americans changed

they no longer wanted grocery stories. They wanted super-stores

one of these companies confronted the brutal facts of reality head-on and completely changed its entire system in response; the other stuck its head in the sand.

Kroger made the same experiments, found the same results, and decided to pivot the entire company to become the modern-day supermarket. A&P saw the truth, but failed to face the truth.

When it’s hard, we avoid it

so why do we do it? Because it’s hard.

it’s hard to make a major strategic choice, because what if you’re wrong?

That’s a good explanation for failure to face the truth, but it’s not a good reason. Face the truth.

(Various org writing practices can help - esp if kept brief and group-edited for clarity/actionability.)

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