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Strategic Discipline Blog

Applying The Stockdale Paradox to Strategy

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Thu, Aug 1, 2013

During my daily meditations I imagine myself healthy.  My blood clot is gone, my occasional dizzy spells a distant memory, my appetite is good, I taste and enjoy food as much as I once did. (Just not as much of it!)  I imagine myself exercising, enjoying walks with my wife, eating at restaurants and socializing with the people I love and care about. 

Recent setbacks have continued to make me appreciate Admiral Stockdale’s predicamentstockdale paradox2 resized 600 There was never a promise of when he might be through his ordeal.  The torture he endured without any contact with the outside world, no glimpse of when freedom might come, had to be incredible to endure. How did he manage to still retain hope and believe he would prevail in the long run?  Despite an excellent clinic appointment with my doctor yesterday (my numbers continue to show improvement) I’m impatient to be further along.  The Physician Assistant and Dr. Silverman reminded me I’m way beyond the curve for someone who went through six chemotherapies to get my AML in remission.  By rights I shouldn’t be here.   By now I expected to be fully engaged in socializing and being able to be fully out in the work environment.  The blood clot and blood thinners I’m on have curtailed that plan, even though I’ve been able to meet with several of my clients in person on a limited basis. 

There is no timetable for my full recovery, except that after the first year it should get much better.  I also received assurances that most of the challenges I’m currently facing can and should be removed as I move into year two of my transplant recovery. 

I’m reminded of Moliere quote, “Most men die of their remedies, and not of their illnesses.”  It’s incredibly important for me to maintain good health and protect myself from infections.  Despite my impatience I need to be careful since my immune system is still vulnerable despite most of my numbers now being in or close to the normal/average range.

It’s frustrating to feel imprisoned.  Being outside is limited due to the potential damage sun exposure can effect on my skin.  It is comforting to discover today that this will change as the Graft versus Host Disease is eliminated.

One of the challenges for me, which is true for getting people to perform and change, is also one of the principals in positive reinforcement: Immediacy.  If you wish people to continue to do something in your business or to change to a new policy it’s critical to provide positive reinforcement immediately after they’ve done what you are asking for. 

There’s’ been very little if any immediate reinforcement during this process of healing and recovery.

This same issue occurs with most business in regard to Strategic Planning.  The efforts and results of crafting elements like Core Values, Purpose, Strategy Statements and Brand Promise rarely bring an immediate consequence to reinforce the action taken. 

The challenge for your business and the obstacle for me as a coach/consultant is to reinforce and emphasize the value these Strategic Statement of Values offer to grow your business.

Jim Stengel’s Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's 50 Greatest Companies can offer a 3x advantage creating a Brand Ideal, yet the “whirlwind” (day-to-day operations) demands attention.  We are so frequently diverted and distracted that we major in the minors.  Reacting tends to get immediate gratification and positive reinforcement, if not from our actions from the people we respond to.

Focusing on the strategic requires a belief system not supported by the human condition.  Recognizing its value is what separates great leadership from mediocre. 

Which type of leader are you?

We’ve explored why Positive Reinforcement Didn’t Work next Blog we’ll explore the Four Rules of Positive Reinforcement to make sure it works for you.

Challenges of Scaling Up a Business 







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Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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