“It’s ONLY an exercise! No need to get so serious about it!”

Heard that sort of thing before? Ever said it yourself? How do you respond if you hear such a phrase, or smell the same attitude in the air? I get extremely irritated, my trigger finger starts to twitch, and I start reaching for a rifle butt and bayonet. A bit extreme, perhaps, and here’s why:

You don’t give a hoot about the organization and the people around you!

Without exception, everyone I know of who has uttered this phrase has proved to be one who is utterly self-interested and has no heart for the organization they’re in and has no interest helping the people they might even call friends raise their value. These are the “don’t rock the boat” people who will not hesitate to jump ship if they think opportune or suck the life out of everyone around them. Give these people a chance to be helped up to a better work ethic, or else expunge them from your organization.

The only “excuses” for such phrases, and I do mean the quotes, are:

The exercise is irrelevant

If so, bring it up to the Convening Authority or equivalent, present your concerns and offer suggestions as to how an exercise of similar nature would actually help achieve the organization’s business goals. The “Aim” of the exercise needs to be extremely clear and has to be an expression of organizational goals. Otherwise it is a waste of resources.

The exercise is badly designed

Many of us have had to endure this. The exercise format needs to be a good blend of planning, tabletop and “live” components. “Vertical Slice”, meaning representative-type involvement from the highest to the lowest echelons of the organization, are convenient in that they allow most of the organization to carry on with daily operations, but they need to have the inertia of the whole organization factored in or they might produce falsely upbeat results. In short, the exercise needs to be thought through well before it is churned out and mandated.

The exercise is badly conducted

Not much explanation needed here. If in-house expertise is lacking, get external help!

The exercise has no lasting effect on organizational behaviour

Leadership needs to recognize that there is a serious issue here with the organizational culture. Conducting more and more exercises will not help. Blaming the exercise planning and conducting people is useless. What is needed is an overhaul of the Leadership Team. External help is vital in this case, since most organizations, even positive, high value, future-focused ones, will not be able to progress with the current level of leadership.

Don’t ever let anyone get away with saying “It’s ONLY an exercise!” Take him to task and ruthlessly ask why he should not be expelled. That’s assuming you’ve already done all you could have done for his personal development. Take exercises seriously. Otherwise, why bother?

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