He implores us to become insanely objective and ask the tough questions so that we get an accurate picture of what is really going on in our organisation.
Yet do we? I would say, not often.
There are four reasons why we should confront the brutal facts:
So we don’t get blinded by our own reflection.
To create a climate of openness, honesty and transparency.
To get the facts not opinion or guesswork, the hard data.
In order to embrace the Stockdale Paradox.
Most of these are pretty obvious, except maybe the Stockdale Paradox.
The Stockdale Paradox is named after Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War.
He was tortured more than twenty times, and never had much reason to believe he would survive the prison camp and someday get to see his wife again. Yet he was one of the survivors where others, literally, lost the will to live.
While Stockdale had remarkable faith in the unknowable, he noted that it was always the most optimistic of his prison mates who failed to make it out of there alive.
So, the Stockdale Paradox is this.
You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.
AND at the same time…
You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
And so it is for business owners and directors: You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.
AND at the same time… You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
So, confront the brutal facts AND retain faith.
For businesses, that might be:
Recognise that a competitor is undercutting you by 10% AND that we will find a way to beat them
Accept that our product is not unique (right now) AND that we will become the preferred supplier in the industry.
It may be a paradox… it may be a form of schizophrenia… but holding two divergent opinions about one situation is not impossible.