– Why we are inclined to accept disaster.

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Planning is not natural to most Americans. We resist it because it requires some foresight, analysis, and change. In other words, work. Our history is littered with stories of snafus resulting from poor planning, both large and small; Pearl Harbor, 911, and Hurricane Katrina are legendary. In the case of Pearl Harbor, the Army’s Colonel Billy Mitchell studied the island’s defenses and wrote a report detailing how the island would be attacked with incredible accuracy. The report was written a full 17 years prior to December 7th, 1941. Instead of heeding his advice, the Army would eventually lose patience with Mitchell and run him out of the military.

In terms of Hurricane Katrina, civil engineers were acutely aware the weaknesses of the levee system protecting New Orleans was inadequate to withstand a Category 5 storm, as well as Category 4. Their warnings though, unfortunately, went unheeded.

Overseas, particularly in Asia, planning is more common. For example, it was incredibly important in the re-development of Japan following World War II. In business, Japanese companies spend much more time planning than Americans as they like to “look before they leap.” Americans, on the other hand tend to take the plunge before they know what they are jumping into. Even worse, they often take the wrong course of action when faced with disaster. Allow me to explain…

I know a Florida fraternal organization who, like a lot of nonprofits, is losing members. However, this is not new as they have been losing on the average of +1,500 members per year for the last 15 years. Everyone in the organization is cognizant of it, but the leadership has done nothing to stem the problem, hoping it is a temporary condition and will simply go away. Whereas there were in excess of 58K members in 2003, by 2017 there was approximately 35K. It was only this year that the leadership decided to take action by leveraging a hefty per capita tax on each member, which will inevitably drive more members away. Whereas they should have been studying the problem all along, they waited until the last minute to make a decision which will ultimately have an adverse effect on membership.

Similarly, New York State has one of the highest tax rates in the country. So much so, it is causing New Yorkers to flee the state as economic refugees seeking shelter in more tax-friendly states, such as Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. To compensate for their departure, the state recently added new taxes in New York City; a “congestion tax” to ride on city streets, and a “mansion tax” on expensive estates. This too will likely cause more New Yorkers to flee the state. Instead of cutting expenses and lowering taxes to make the state more inviting to live in, they continue to tax and spend madly. As an aside, according to a recent Mercatus Center study, New York State is ranked #41 of the fifty states in terms of fiscal health (Florida is #4, North Carolina is #9, Georgia is #18, and South Carolina is #20).

As in the Florida fraternal example, New York State waited too late until conditions worsened, failed to change their ways, and opted to burden the remaining people instead. Such “knee-jerk” reactions is typical of incompetent leadership.

Then we have the crisis of illegal immigrants at our southern border, a problem threatening our country’s sovereignty. While some claim the problem is “manufactured,” reports from the Department of Homeland Security are undeniable. The American people have known this to be a problem well before the 2016 elections. Remarkably, the Congress fails to address the problem, even to this day. Regardless of the party in power, if this is a legitimate problem, where is the House and Senate in terms of changing our laws? The fact they insist of ignoring the problem goes beyond simple dereliction of duty; it is pure negligence, if not treasonous.

These three incidents are typical of American planning, as they prefer waiting for disaster to strike before taking action. This, of course, is madness. The reason for it should be rather obvious, we feel comfortable operating in an auto-pilot mode and resist making hard decisions that might offend someone. Yet in the end, reactionary behavior ultimately hurts everyone.

Let me give you one last example, knowing our Fraternal Lodge was losing membership and money, and realizing the costs to maintain our building were escalating, I prepared a Feasibility Study which came to the conclusion the Lodge should sell the building and move in with a neighboring Lodge. Had we done so, we would have probably sold the building for $750K. Unfortunately, the members voted to stay and hoped the problem would alleviate itself. It did not. Consequently, 13 years later, the Lodge was finally forced to sell the building for $500K, a substantially lower number. In other words, they avoided the inevitable which ultimately cost them. Think about it, it is essentially no different than the Billy Mitchell story which cost the military dearly.

Planning requires foresight, keeping a pulse on changing conditions, the ability to adapt to change, and above all else, effective leadership. If the leaders are operating on auto-pilot, the group should not be surprised by the consequences when havoc strikes.

For more information on Reactive Management, click HERE.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

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