The Cost of the Things You Don’t Know You Don’t Know

The Cost of the Things You Don’t Know You Don’t Know

We’ve all sat through presentation on Strategic Planning, Goal Setting and maybe Breakthrough Theory.  There is usually a slide showing a small circle labeled “Things We Know”.  Surrounding it is a much larger circle labeled “Things We Don’t Know”.  And a much, much larger circle surrounding that labeled “Things We Don’t Know We Don’t Know”.   These “Things” can be about business, science, or life.  But let’s consider the cost of these things.

  • What We Know – The cost of the things we know, from a business perspective, is called your Operating and Capital Budgets. These budgets contain the amount you plan to spend to keep everything you know running, buy new things to replace old things, and buy other new things because you want to grow.  Budgets contain money to pay for SG&A (Sales, General and Administrative) stuff like rent, utilities, travel, office supplies, and salaries for staff.   From a Technology Perspective, budgets contain money to buy or lease desktop and mobile hardware, servers, switches, routers, firewalls and other BBL’s (boxes with blinky lights).  Technology budgets buy software licenses, maintenance agreements, communication services to connect locations, and telephone services.  There are also budget dollars for third party professional services because, let’s face it, no one knows everything.
  • What We Don’t Know – The cost of what we don’t know is called Risk. I don’t know if there will be an economic situation that will drive the Dow Jones down (Oops! Sorry, too soon).  I don’t know if the price of natural resources or component parts will skyrocket.  No one could have predicted that the price of cotton would triple five years ago.  From a technology standpoint, I don’t know if an actor will hack into my network and launch malware to encrypt my files or compromise my Intellectual Capital.  I don’t know if my mainframe will fail and I will have to failover to my disaster site.  But I know that these things are possible.  I can put policies, procedures and best practices in place to guide me if something like this happens.  I may not budget for all these events, because they may never happen.  I will budget for the higher probability Risks.  If others hit, I will pay what I need to pay to ensure Business Continuity.
  • What We Don’t Know We Don’t Know – The cost of what we don’t know we don’t know is called Leadership, and here is the best part – IT’S FREE. There was a time when you never heard the term Cyber-Threat, or Hyper-Converged Servers, or Cloud Computing.  If you are old enough, there was a time when you never heard of the Internet.  But there have always been things we didn’t know we didn’t know.  You can’t estimate them.  You can’t plan around them.  You need to be prepared to lead through them.    Providing proper leadership will enable you to prevent, minimize, mitigate or recover from any calamity.

Successful leadership can never be taken too lightly.  It takes planning, foresight, and empathy.  Leadership is not management.  Management is tactical.  Projects are managed.  Leadership is strategic.  People want to be lead.  Leadership has three allies that will help you survive the things you don’t know you don’t know:

  • Faith – To date no event in human history has ever hit our planet and its inhabitants so severely that we have not been able to recover. If your company is still in business, then the same holds true for you.  All the economic, atmospheric, and criminal storms have been weathered and you are still here.
  • Agility – When a malady occurs, we humans find a way to survive based on our ability to create solutions. So, too, for your company.  I worked for a Textile company when cotton prices tripled.  We were agile enough to adjust operating procedures to survive until the prices retreated, and the company came back stronger than before.
  • Community – You are not in this alone. Just because you never heard of the latest technology breakthroughs or business threats, doesn’t mean others haven’t.  Build and mentor your team with the passion to succeed and resilience to recover as a part of doing business.  Recognize your shortcomings.  Build your network and rely on trusted, outside expertise to help you through the things you don’t know you don’t know.  Bring in Strategic Planning experts to assess your strategies.  Bring in Cyber Security experts to assess your vulnerabilities.  Bring in Technology Strategists to make sure you have Best Practices in place and are doing the right things the right way with the resources you have at your disposal.  Together, we all know almost everything – at least enough to help each other flourish.

We all lead our own little spaces in the world, even if it just ourselves.    Lead to instill Faith for success, Agility to handle any threat, and a Community of partners so we can all help each other.   Then things that you don’t know you don’t know become things that you no longer worry about.

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