Should You Obey or Defy Orders from Executives?


I have sometimes been a bit rebellious and disobeyed instructions and orders from my supervisors. This blog is intended to inspire those of you who are like-minded and prefer to do what you believe is correct to do in contrast to your managers’ demands of you. It is obviously risky and can be career-limiting. After over forty years working in large hierarchical companies I recently “quasi-retired” so I am no longer being managed and can write about what I feel about being defiant.




Gary Cokins
Gary Cokins
A military example of disobedience

I am inspired to write this blog based on the recent book by Marine corporal Dakota Meyer who defied orders in the battlefield in Afghan and authored his book Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War. Here is a brief description of what he did from the book’s review in Amazon.com:

“In the fall of 2009, Taliban insurgents ambushed a patrol of Afghan soldiers and Marine advisors in a mountain village called Ganjigal. Firing from entrenched positions, the enemy was positioned to wipe out one hundred men who were pinned down and were repeatedly refused artillery support. Ordered to remain behind with the vehicles, twenty-one year-old Marine corporal Dakota Meyer disobeyed orders and attacked to rescue his comrades.

With a brave driver at the wheel, Meyer stood in the gun turret exposed to withering fire, rallying Afghan troops to follow. Over the course of the five hours, he charged into the valley time and again. Employing a variety of machine guns, rifles, grenade launchers, and even a rock, Meyer repeatedly repulsed enemy attackers, carried wounded Afghan soldiers to safety, and provided cover for dozens of others to escape—supreme acts of valor and determination. In the end, Meyer and four stalwart comrades—an Army captain, an Afghan sergeant major, and two Marines—cleared the battlefield and came to grips with a tragedy they knew could have been avoided. For his actions on that day, Meyer became the first living Marine in three decades to be awarded the Medal of Honor.”

If you are a bit rebellious like I am, how can you not be inspired by Meyer’s actions?

Defying obedience to orders in your organization

For those of you who read my articles and blogs, you are aware of my frustration with the slow adoption rate of enterprise and corporate performance management ( EPM / CPM ) methods like strategy maps, the balanced scorecard, and activity-based costing for product, channel, and customer profitability analysis. When properly implemented, these are proven performance improvement methods that result in better decisions and align managers and the workforce to execute the executive team’s strategy.

Now I am a team player and believe that on professional sports teams you play for the name on the front of your team’s jersey and not the personal name on the back. But haven’t you seen American football quarterbacks sometimes ignore the offensive play prescribed by the coaches’ laminated playbook and call an audible at the line of scrimmage that results in a touchdown?

The executive team is tasked with leadership, and ideally managers and employee teams should follow their instructions. But how many of you have ever worked for a weak leadership team? If you are bold there are times when you realize it is best to do what you believe is the right thing.

Organizations need more “champion” behavior from their middle managers. Linkedin discussion groups frequently chatter about poor guidance from executives. A recent discussion had many discussants moaning about their CFO function’s reluctance to implement activity-based costing (ABC) principles for lame reasons such as it would result in two different sets of product costs or that ABC is too complicated to implement. This is nonsense. My observations have been that “champions” proceed anyway with pilots and proof-of-concept models to demonstrate the value of having better information for insights, foresight, and decisions.

Analytics and Big Data – the next battle

Business analytics, like correlation and segmentation cluster analysis, are increasingly being embedded into EPM methodologies. For example, correlation of balanced scorecard key performance indicators (KPIs) can validate the quality of selected KPIs as having high or low explanatory value of the operational measures that truly influence the strategic KPIs – and ultimately impact the financial outcomes and strategy execution.

Will we see executives and IT managers stonewall analysts who know that applying business analytics is the “right thing to do”? Of course. Be a champion. Defy them the way Dakota Meyer did. You will not receive the Medal of Honor, but you will know your actions will serve your organization well.



Gary Cokins, CPIM
(gary.cokins@sas.com; phone: 919-531-2012)
blogs.sas.com/content/cokins

Gary Cokins (Cornell University BS IE/OR, 1971; Northwestern University Kellogg MBA 1974) is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in advanced cost management and enterprise performance and risk management systems. He is a Principal in business consulting involved with analytics-based enterprise performance management solutions with SAS, a global leader in business intelligence and analytics software. He began his career in industry with a Fortune 100 company in CFO and operations roles. He then worked 15 years in consulting with Deloitte, KPMG, and EDS. His two most recent books are Performance Management: Finding the Missing Pieces to Close the Intelligence Gap (ISBN 0-471-57690-5) and Performance Management: Integrating Strategy Execution, Methodologies, Risk, and Analytics (ISBN 978-0-470-44998-1). Mr. Cokins can be contacted at gary.
cokins@sas.com
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Lundi 17 Décembre 2012
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