I heard a new phrase on a conference call with a client this morning. The client claimed they were suffering from intense ambiguity. I knew immediately I had a post in those two words.
What the client meant was that there was significant pressure from the management team to do something - especially new and interesting things. However, there isn't necessarily a corresponding amount of clarity about what those things should be. So, there's a lot of pressure to get things done, just no one is really sure what kinds of things should be done.
This is known, my friends, as a failure to communicate. There are only three possibilities here:
- The management team wants new and interesting products and services delivered, but hasn't communicated the strategic goals of the company. Either they don't have clarity around that themselves or they are waiting for a couple of really bright people to present them with a strategy that works.
- The management team has no ability to generate a strategic vision and is hoping and praying that someone in the organization has a compelling vision that they'll present, so the management team can champion.
- The management team has communicated a vision that was so tissue thin and unimpressive that everyone missed it and is still waiting for the "real" vision.
So, here's the dilemma: Would you rather be led by a madman with a very clear strategic vision that may not be correct but is well formed, or would you rather be "led" by a group of senior managers who cannot or will not provide a clear strategic vision? In the first case you know specifically where you are going, you may not agree but it isn't hard to align vision and resources to those goals. In the second case, there's a significant amount of pressure to do something, but no one is clear what that "something" is, and so a number of different teams acquire different interpretations and work at cross purposes, or nobody does anything, waiting for clarity.
As for me, hoist the Jolly Roger any day. I'd rather work to a clearly flawed but clearly articulated goal than an ambiguous plan with no clear strategy any day.
How's that intense ambiguity working for you?