Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Losing the Battle but Winning the War

Over the past 2 months since Labor Day, I've been given hundreds of challenging controversies to resolve.   I'm not sure if it's the economy, healthcare reform, or the uncertainties of an election year, but in general, the Fall of 2010 has had more emotion, discontent, and chaos than most years.

Whenever I'm asked to play Solomon, I always ask myself - do I want to win the battle or win the war?

I could use formal authority to force a short term outcome.

I could raise my voice, leverage my reputation,  or utilize negative commentary (think political advertising) to win the day.

All such victories are temporary and I would never use such tactics.

Imagine that I forced customers to use a technology solution without gaining their buy in.  I'd win the battle.   Inevitably, the users would try as hard as they could to make the project fail, blaming all negative consequences on the products I mandated.   I'd lose the war.

It is far better to take the long view, devising a solution that stakeholders will embrace as their own and feel motivated to make successful.

The day to day battles rarely matter.  The trajectory over years is the best measure of success.

Similarly, in the world of technology, if you go live a few months late because you focused on user acceptance, no one will ever remember.  If you go live too early to meet an arbitrary deadline, no one will every forget.

Thus, pick your battles.   Ignore most of them.   Keep your eye on your long term vision and work toward it incrementally, focusing on change management and stakeholder alignment.

It's the war, not the battle, that people will remember long after you're gone.
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