Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked. ~ Warren Buffett.
Last week I mentioned one of the most important takeaways from Norman Maclean’s book Young Men and Fire is that as leaders it’s crucial we do not allow prior successes to lull us into complacency. Especially when failure can be catastrophic, we need to make sure a “been there – done that” mentality doesn’t cause us to miss key pieces of data or suggest a different course of action should be taken.
In situations like this, provided you haven’t surrounded yourself with sycophants or created an organization that doesn’t allow for informed debate or differing views, there is nothing like requesting a second set of eyes on a problem to make sure you’re not missing something.
Recall from last week that after the smoke jumpers parachuted into Mann Gulch on the afternoon of August 5, 1949, they stopped and took supper in an area that would soon become completely consumed by fire. With the Mann Gulch disaster ultimately becoming a story of a race between firefighters and fire, it’s hard not to reflect on those initial hours and wonder if the outcome would have been different had the experienced leader of the group, Wag Dodge, gotten a second set of eyes on the fire and the surrounding area to realize that:
This time, things are different.
What prompted me to think about this are current economic conditions and a keen understanding that it’s during the good times when businesses grow complacent and make bad decisions. As such, to get another set of eyes on things, I recently assembled my staff and, after sharing the story about the Mann Gulch Fire, posed the following question:
Imagine it’s a year from today and business conditions have suddenly and drastically changed. What are the things you wish we would have done between today and May 24, 2019 to build a more resilient business?
Although I’ll leave it to you to decide whether posing a question like this at work (or at home) is useful, with creditors prone to asking for their umbrellas back when it starts raining, the insight you get today may go a long long way to keeping you from getting wet when business conditions do suddenly change.
On that note, a good place to stop and add some music to our eclectic Spotify playlist. I’m not sure why, but the mention of creditors reminded me of the band Vampire Weekend. Here they are with their song “Step.”
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