It’s Not Rocket Science… or Is It?

Monday, January 16 2017

It’s not rocket science.

We’ve all heard that phrase, often with a hint of cynicism (“Really, how hard can it be?”) in reference to something seemingly logical and easy. Business strategy often seems logical and easy – set the goal, assign it to a bunch of people, and get it done – right?

Well, depending on how you measure it, perhaps rocket science is easier. Of the 536 astronauts who have made the perilous flight into space, the data shows that 3% have perished. Compare that to business strategy: research by Kaplan and Norton suggests that 90% of organizations fail to successfully implement their strategies. I’d put my money on space travel!

Whether in space travel or business, failure is risky and expensive. The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986 is infamous. The tragedy was deemed to have resulted from a defect in a small ‘O’ ring that allowed fuel to escape, ignite and explode. During the post-explosion review, it was discovered that an engineer had attempted to communicate this risk, but his warning got lost in the pre-launch preparations with tragic and costly consequences. It is a cautionary tale for all leaders.

How often does critical information get missed in our own organizations? Our research at The Achievement Centre identifies that in the opinion of our clients’ employees, communication is one of the things that organizations do most poorly. In fact, “I have a voice” is consistently the lowest score at 5 out of 10 for all employees we’ve measured.

I carry an O ring on my key chain as a constant reminder that as a leader, I need to be mindful about not getting lost in my own sense of self-importance. It prompts me to ensure I am listening to employees and clients who might have an idea that can change the course of their respective organizations in ways that I am not seeing.

As leaders, we want to ensure that something that seems small, but has big consequences doesn’t get missed; let’s make sure there is a way for all stakeholders to have a voice.