Monday, January 8, 2018

That's a [No Adjective] Fact, Jack

Painting of Pontius Pilate asking Jesus the Christ a famous question. Что есть Истина, Христос и Пилат. Nikolai Ge. 1890.
From Managing (1984) by Harold S. Geneen (1910-1997), former President, CEO and Chairman of ITT:
Time after time in those early ITT management meetings, I would question a man about his facts, Where did he get them? (Usually from some other man.) How did he know they were correct? Were they facts? So I wrote a memo about “unshakeable facts.”

Yesterday, we put in a long hard-driving meeting mostly seeking the facts on which easy management decisions could be then made. I think the most important conclusion to be drawn is simple. There is no word in the English language that more strongly conveys the intent of incontrovertibility, i.e. “final and reliable reality” than the word “fact.”

However, no word is more honored by its breach in actual usage. For example, there are and we saw yesterday:

“Apparent facts”

“Assumed facts”

“Reported Facts”

“Hoped-for facts”

“Facts” so labeled and accepted as facts - i.e. “accepted facts” - and many others of similar derivation.

In most cases these were not facts at all.

In many cases of daily life this point may not be too important, but in the area of management momentum and decision, is all-important. Whole trains of events and decision of an entire management can be put in motion in the wrong direction - with inevitable loss of money, time and morale - by one “unfactual fact” accepted by or submitted by YOU - however unintentional.

The highest art of professional management requires the literal ability to “smell” a “real fact” from all others -and moreover to have the temerity, intellectual curiosity, guts and/or plain impoliteness, if necessary to be sure that what you do have is indeed what we will call an “unshakeable fact.”

So . . . start now IS IT A FACT? but more important, IS IT AN UNSHAKEABLE FACT?

No matter what you think, try “shaking it” to be sure.

Send this message down the line.
Sadly, the Coconut Treatment on facts and truth was already well underway by the fateful year in
which Mr. Geneen's book was published, hence his obvious pushback.

(Thanks to my Critical Thinking and Computer Logic Instructor; originally posted October 2, 2003)

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