Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Logical and Stupid

I am a big fan of logic of many types. I understand predicate logic, boolean logic and the rigorous application of value functions to alternatives, giving logic a solid place in decision-making.

As big a fan of logic as I am, I always apply the final test: "the proof of the pudding is in the eating." In other words, it matters where you end up, even if your chain of reasoning is flawless. If you end up with a stupid conclusion, it matters little how you reached that stupid conclusion.

This is on my mind because I keep running into a stupid conclusion that was arrived at logically. Mercifully, this particular stupidity rarely ruins my day, but it certainly ruins the days of many others.

The day ruining takes the form of endlessly refusing to address any immediate issues because only big issues can be taken up the chain and local power seems to be non-existent. When I tried to push back, in different contexts in different organizations, here is the reasoning that was offered as an explanation:
  1. Premise: the view from 50,000 feet/big picture is always clearer
  2. Therefore all decisions should be made by senior staff
  3. But senior staff cannot get bogged down in details
  4. So only big decisions are worth making
  5. Therefore a collection of smaller decisions, even if that collection has an enormous collective impact, should be ignored forever
I can see how the recent recession and shortness of money has caused organizations to tighten purse strings. I realize that pushing decisions up a level is chic. I know all too well that many low-level managers do not have great decision-making skills. But to end up in a place where nothing is possible and ever-more out-of-touch senior staff make an ever-higher percentage of decisions does not appear to be going so well.

On the bright side, the resulting not-to-be-admitted disasters seem to offer decent opportunities for a consultant such as myself, so perhaps I should just keep my big mouth shut.

References for the interested: