P. Edronkin

Leaders of Contraction (I).

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Once, a German General said that an orderly retreat is the most difficult military movement.

It is true, and this precept does not only to military tactics and strategy, but to all organisations faced with the need of retreating after a given point has been reached.

Nobody likes to downsize or retreat. Nobody wants to abandon territories once conquered, thus, there is a very real and dangerous inertia that conspires against taking such a decision.

The end result in most cases, is that retreating is finally decided and ordered when it has become inevitable and thus, more costly than otherwise.

There are also political considerations in this issue: even if the leaders agree that a retreat is necessary, the fact that they must live up to their reputation among the public, and in many cases, they require popular support for the continuation of their careers, makes them quite wary about retreating at the proper time, when initial signs of decay begin to appear but have not reached a level of inevitability in the public.

On the other hand, no leader wants to be historically associated with failure, contraction and retreat. Even thought it is recognised that retreating is the most difficult military operation, no General has been know for his prowess in retreating under combat conditions.

Successful retreats are not considered victories, even though they might well be.

We are not talking here just about a tactical retreat in any kind of activity, such as a retreat in a battle after a provisory objective has been attained, or ending a promotional campaign in marketing, but retreat on a grand scale. That is, at a strategic level.

One retreat can be perceived by the public as one battle lost, thus, a strategic retreat with some good public relations' work might be made palatable. However, many tactical retreats, one after another, create the notion of defeat among members of any organisation.

The firing of one employee within a corporation is seen as a sad but normal event among the victim's colleagues; however, when tens of employees begin to be laid down by the company, panics and derrotism begins to swell among the ranks.

Under all kinds of crisis conditions

Thus, a good leader for this stage in any organisation should be well aware of this point in order to bring back tranquility. The reason is very simple: if panic grows efficiency decays and only makes things worse.

Organisations do not retreat just because their leaders want, but because those groups need to survive. A retreat is a dangerous moment even if it is only a bad instance in an otherwise promising evolution of facts.

Even the strongest gladiator could be attacked successfully by the weakest one when he gave his back to the dying adversary on the Circus arena.

In any given system, the latest any modifications are made, the higher the cost. Retreating is part of the life cycle of any system and any organisation.

Thus, organisations need leaders able to retreat when others are not.

Such leaders are unfortunate ones in many respects, and unless they can turn the tide to their favour sooner or later, they will pass into history as vanquished by circumstances.

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