Making decisions in the fog of war
Teleopti's Founder, Nils Bildt, was recently interviewed by 'Allt om försvar' about his new book "Leadership in the times of uncertainty" and the topics it explores. You can find the original article in Swedish here, or read the English version beneath.
Uncertainty is the decision makers’ companion. But when faced with uncertainty there are lessons to be learned from other decision makers, like military commanders. The same principles apply for company executives, according to Nils Bildt, founder of worldwide company Teleopti, serving mainly in the field of Workforce Management.
How are decisions made in hazardous and uncertain circumstances? Unchartered territory, how is that best navigated? In his book “Leadership in times of uncertainty” Nils Bildt writes about his own experiences as an entrepreneur and as a colonel in the reserve, serving at the Swedish regiment Life Guards. He also presents us with several examples taken from the history of war showing that although technology has changed, the ability to make decisions and coping with risk are timeless.
The fog of war encountered by generals is described by the military theorist Clausewitz in 1832, and that fog keeps confusing today´s decision makers.
“Fog of war is uncertain and incomplete information in precarious situations. In the case of the military the fog is location of enemy, the general conditions, time perspective and weather” says Nils Bildt.
“A fog of war” met up with the Swedish king Karl Gustav X and his army on his way to fight the Danish army in January 1658. He and his army stayed foot at the strait Little Belt. To advance they had to take a risk, to march over the frozen water. The question was, would they sink or walk, would the ice hold for the army to cross? He put the lives of his army and the future of Sweden to the test. They managed and walked across the ice. In the pursuing peace negations Denmark gave back counties Skane, Blekinge, Halland, Bohuslan and Bornholm to Sweden, the best part of today’s southern Sweden.
“It was one of the biggest gambles in Swedish history. Yes, Karl Gustav X and his head of army, commander Carl Wrangel had tested the ice the day before, but they were definitely not certain.”
The main decision is sometimes to be taken, whether to walk or not to walk. To make that decision navigational equipment are required. A private company has its own navigational equipment, values and goals.
Nils Bildt´s company Teleopti is run using management by objectives, MBO, known in military terms as leadership by mission command. MBO builds on trust within the company allowing for mistakes to be made. That culture has led to success for Teleopti, a company with customers in 90 countries today. The path leading there was paved with both successes and mistakes.
“You must believe in your management and give them the mandate to show you that they can perform better than you can. Both you and your management are role models and must be brave enough to allow for your own mistakes to show, so that others dare make mistakes and report back when things go slightly wrong. You must create a strong, forgiving culture” says Nils Bildt.
In this sort of culture management are able to make decisions.
“What is expected from a leader is that he or she can make a decision without a complete decision basis, and see it through” writes Nils Bildt in his book.
Is there any given point in time when you say let´s do this now, let´s not wait for more information?
“You will never have enough information. If it turns out to be the wrong decision you have always make changes” says Nils Bildt.
And when the decision maker dares not to make a decision?
“Then the decision is a non-decision, no decision is made, it is still a decision, and a non-decision can have disastrous consequences, even if at the time everybody feel comfortable about it” says Nils Bildt.
Written by Per Lunqe
Teleopti, a top, global provider of workforce management software, offers a world-class WFM solution that is sophisticated, localized and easy to use. As the largest “best-of-breed” vendor, Teleopti focuses on helping contact centers, back offices and retail stores improve customer service, employee satisfaction and profitability – through optimized, automated forecasting and scheduling with cutting-edge features to empower and engage employees.
Founded in 1992, Swedish-established Teleopti has customers in over 85 countries, offices in Sweden, United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Russia, United Arab Emirates, China, Germany, Brazil, South Africa, Malaysia, Finland and Norway – and a comprehensive global network of partners. With a record of continuous net profitability for 25 years and with high customer satisfaction ratings, Teleopti serves as a reliable partner.
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