Thursday, 22 December 2011

Sherlock Holmes: predicting your shadow moves

I treated myself to a couple of movies last night. The second one I saw was Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (still showing at a picture house near you I expect). I set myself a challenge: what insight into leadership does this film display?

Firstly I would say it is a cracking film with Guy Ritchie showing off his trade that the public first appreciated in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Game of Shadows was fast moving, mildly humorous and had some edge of the seat moments where I was aware that the whole audience were holding their collective breath. I could say more, of course, but the point of this blog is not to write a review of the film, there are plenty of other people who have done that (here and here for example).

There is no spoiler here, but there are a number of occasions (usually in the fight scenes) in the film where Sherlock runs through his assessment of what is about to happen  in his mind's eye and then maps out how he will be victorious. It is as if he is acting on the basis of premonition or as (as probably the character would contend) deduction from the facts of the situation. And I got to wondering how many organisations or leaders do that successfully? How many strategies are carefully crafted from the known facts and then played out in such a way as to achieve the results needed?

In my experience, and I am being a tad cynical here I know, many (perhaps even most) strategies are derived post hoc. Something is achieved and then people get to be clever in linking that result with a logical interpretation of what was done. Strategies that do not work are carefully forgotten or condemned by an incoming new manager / board / government... It is as if strategies always work.

Of course Mr Holmes' strategies always work in the film. The question for me is how many strategies really work in real life? If they are going to work, I would propose a number of conditions that need to be present. Drawing on the film as a source of inspiration, these are:
  • Clarity about the desired outcome
  • Awareness (perhaps a hyper-awareness) the factors that will hinder and help
  • Non attachment to past ways (what worked then may not work now)
  • Understanding of human behaviour and how that might change the plans
  • Creativity and using resources in very innovative ways
  • Preparedness to risk (almost) all
  • Openness to other ideas but also the confidence to stop listening at times
What else would you add?

(And if you see the film, have I summed up the character's approach adequately?)

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