Beware the Strawman

Big Red Car here.  Going to be another beauty in the ATX.  Why haven’t you moved here yet?

So The Boss is working with several of his brilliant CEOs.  They really are brilliant.

A constant problem for CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs is to solve the right problem.  Having problems to solve is why CEOs were invented in the first place.

The Boss is constantly seeing CEOs erect strawmen and divert themselves from the real problem.  The strawman argument is a logical fallacy often injected into an intellectual debate between two parties.  Politicians are notorious for erecting strawman arguments to divert attention from the real problem.  They do this purposely to confuse the public.

The subject here today is not one of logic but one of solving the right problem.

It goes something like this — should I work on X or should I work on Y?

Both, and

When confronted with a strawman argument — in this instance a false choice — the answer is often “both” “and”.

The first rule is always:  “Run the business.  Regardless of what happens, run the business.”

This notion of the ultimate and supreme priority comes from the problem solving methodology taught in aviation.  “Regardless of what happens, fly the plane.  Fly the damn plane.

Aviate, navigate, communicate, confess, ask for help.

The answer of X v Y is this — you have to do both and you have to do both at the same time.   The idea that you have either the luxury or the necessity of working on only one is the strawman.  Kill the strawman.  Rough the strawman up a bit.

Setting priorities

No sooner does the Big Red Car advise you this is a strawman and you have to solve both, the Big Red Car is going to say something just a bit confusing.

You can set priorities as part of the killing of the strawman.  You can say — I’ll work on problem A for an hour a day and problem B for four hours a week.  The time weighted priority is fine.

It is even fine to say — I’ll work on problem A for two hours a day and put problem B on the shelf for two weeks.

Being a CEO is messy

What the Big Red Car is saying is don’t ignore a challenge and try to convince yourself it can be ignored.  Marshal the resources to work on both of them.

Is it OK to box and shelve it for a couple of weeks?  Yes, but make that a conscious decision with an initiation point, a time line and a deadline to take it down off the shelf.

This is where habits like The Checklist Manifesto are useful.  Get the list right, set the priorities right, work through the list.

Also remember how to make a decision.  The methodology is important.  Remember this?


 Now get out there and burn the strawman.  You can do it.

But, hey, what do I really know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car.