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The Business Forum Journal


The Problem in Showing Clients their Blind Spots


By  David G. Chaudron



I am sitting here on a plane to the Middle East (03/25/2015). 

A client of ours asked for a workshop in Change Management their senior-most people.  It is a typical large corporation in this region of the world: Controlled by a family, with each of its branches not having too much to do with each other.   It is basically involved in real estate, construction, finance, production and consumer products.  It also is well-established, with over 10,000 employees.

In our discussions with them, it became apparent they had gone through significant changes in their leadership structure, and had not fully come to grips with the present decline in world oil prices.  They already had an extensive training program for senior management, but it had not yet included training in how to manage change.

The negotiations went well, and we were customizing our content to their unique circumstances as usual.  We sent our preliminary  proposals of work content to the client, and that is when a problem arose.

You see, we do not use the standard �develop the vision, mission and values� way of strategy and change.  Part of the reason for this is that a vision statement for a company is often just that: a statement, with little actual action involved afterwards.  Another reason is that many in their senior management manage to get the vision and company mission mixed up; which is common is many organizations.  A vision should not be a merely a vision for the company as it is today, it should also be a vision of the future for what the company may have to become.   It is then that the company�s purpose and mission to make that future environment/world come about.  A third reason was that we have difficulties with a company visions that is "idealized", with little in the way of contingency planning.

As a way around this, we have helped many of our clients develop multiple scenarios for the future; some of them I have to admit are not so rosy. They can then change their mission concept, internal systems and processes to maximize company success should any of these come about.

That is where the problem arose.

Obviously, scenarios are designed to be thought-provoking, and to get management to think and act in different ways.  Scenarios by themselves do not actually do much more than that:  They have to be integrated into possible planning and systems changes.  Scenarios do not just encourage good process:  The content must be realistic as well.

Unfortunately, some large financial companies used scenario planning just before the Great Recession.  It sounded like a good idea, but they did not include any scenario where there would be a cash-crunch or cascading/escalating financial problems and I really wanted to avoid that blind spot with this particular client.

As many know, the king of Saudi Arabia has recently died, and his elderly brother has taken his place. Given that he is 79, and shows signs of frailty, it is a good possibility that he will not be around in five or ten years. It should be said also that the crown prince is also not a spring chicken, and the deputy crown prince may merely be something of a placeholder. He is the first in the line of succession from the younger generation, but no one really knows how much power he has or will have in the future.

As a result, if and when the current king dies, there is a significant possibility of a power struggle in the Kingdom.

This was mentioned in the scenarios we developed. This is when the client got a bit squeamish, not wanting to bring up anything that might be too controversial.  I thought a great deal about this, and recommended that the controversial language be kept out, but left it up to him (the customer) about whether to include it or not.

As of this moment, he is undecided.  I truly hope he makes the right call, and will not regret it when what is today controversial becomes a reality ~ the consequences which they suffer from.

Author Profile - David Chaudron

David Chaudron PhD., is a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and the Managing Partner of Organized Change Consultancy, and the developer of the Organized Change Survey System, writes with more than twenty years of experience with a wide variety of organizations including manufacturing, electronics, NGO, petrochemical, biotechnology, government, banking, venture capital and financial service sectors. He works internationally with clients in North America, South America, Europe and the Middle East.  David is the author of many practical articles on strategic planning and organizational change and he has assisted organizations in planning their strategies, changing their organizations, surveying their employees, building their teams, and improving the leadership styles of their executives.

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