One of the most useful quotes I’ve ever heard went over like a lead balloon when it was originally articulated:
You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to
have at a later time. –Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, December 2004
Although it may have been an ill-advised retort to the question presented (google it if you don’t remember), I have often used those words to guide my actions at work, at home, everywhere.
It came to mind again after I spent a couple of days in planning meetings. As we attempted to converge on the projects that would take precedence in the coming year, I noticed that much of the ensuing conversation centered on why we couldn’t accomplish those things today. Well, we could if we had this… or We won’t be able to do that until… There was always something we didn’t have that seemed to hamper our progress.
That’s when I thought of Rumsfeld.
All of the goals we had identified were important. The outcomes were necessary to our success. Were we really willing to forgo that success for a tool? In my (not-so-humble) opinion, there should have been two facets to the discussion. First, what do we need to accomplish and how do we get there with today’s “army.” Second, what tools could we buy, develop, or implement to make accomplishing our mission easier OR sustain it when we get there, i.e. how could we beef up our army along the way?
Too often we want to use what we DON’T have as an excuse. Instead, we should evaluate what we DO have and how we can use it to accomplish our goals. Sure, we can add tools as we go, but we need to start TODAY. If we wait until we have all our ducks in a row, technology or circumstances will change and we’ll have to find new ducks. Of one thing I’m absolutely certain: if we don’t start, we’ll never get anything done.
Forget the excuses; go to war.