Friday, May 18, 2012

Success and the Proper Order of Things

I often get asked to help bail out business units or organizations who for some reason believe that they can somehow manifest success by doing everything in any order they feel like.

Even while asking for my advice they are arguing about how the “wrong order” wasn’t that wrong and then I need to remind them that if things were running well, I wouldn’t be sitting in the room with them.

While there are many dry, pragmatic theories I can put in front of people regarding the correct order of doing things in business, I think this story best sums up why understanding the proper order of doing things is critical to success.


Two-Part Questions

Bob had finally made it to the last round of the $50,000 Question.

The night before the big question, he told the program host that he desired a question on American History.

The big night arrived.  Bob made his way onstage in front of the studio and TV audience.  He had become the talk of the week.  He was the best guest this show had ever seen.  The host stepped up to the mike.

"Bob, you have chosen American History as your final question.  You know that if you correctly answer this question, you will walk away $50,000 dollars richer.  Are you ready?"

Bob nodded with a cocky confidence -- the crowd went nuts.  He hadn't missed a question all week.

"Bob, yours is a two-part question.  As you know, you may answer either part first.  As a rule, the second half of the question is always easier.  Which part would you like to take a stab at first?"

Bob was becoming more noticeably nervous.  He couldn't believe it but his confidence was failing him, but hey, American History was his easiest subject and so he played it safe.

"I'll try the easier part first."

The host nodded approvingly.  "Here we go Bob.  I will ask you the second half first, then the first half."

The audience grew silent with great anticipation.

"Bob, here is your question: And in what year did it happen?"


The bottom line: No matter how smart you think you are, self-confidence can never compensate for doing things in the order they are meant to be done, personally and professionally.

Are you doing things in the correct order?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,



  1. What are some signs that a reordering is needed? The joke implies that one sign is that you don't have the information you need when you need it.

  2. The following signs are the most common symptoms:

    1. Things are not producing the desired result no matter what you are trying.

    2. You've decided that planning is not necessary. :-)

    3. You decide that advice is over rated and you go it alone.

    The joke can suggest many things .. it can suggest what you noted, it can suggest that over confidence can overshadow knowledge and cause you to make poor choices or something else.

    The right answer is what you see in it. :-)