During military maneuvers in Switzerland, the young lieutenant of a small Hungarian detachment in the Alps sent a reconnaissance unit into the icy wilderness. It began to snow immediately, snowed for two days, and the unit did not return. The lieutenant suffered, fearing that he had dispatched his own people to death.
But the third day the unit came back. Where had they been? How have they made their way? Yes, they said, we considered ourselves lost and waited for the end. And then one of us found a map in his pocket. That calmed us down. We pitched camp, lasted out the snowstorm, and then with the map we discovered our bearings. And here we are. The lieutenant borrowed this remarkable map and had a good look at it. He discovered to his astonishment that it was not a map of the Alps, but a map of the Pyrenees.
Karl Weick tells this story in Making Sense of the Organization (p.345-346). His conclusion is that organizations find their way not because they have the perfect strategy or an accurate map, but because they “begin to act, they generate tangible outcomes in some context, and this helps them discover what is occurring, what needs to be explained, and what should be done next.”
How is your organization chosing to act now – even in the midst of uncertainty? Who is finding and offering a temporary map to begin the journey forward?