The Oxford English Dictionary set a new standard for yearly awards by naming “omnishambles“–defined as “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations“–the 2012 Word of the Year by the BBC.
Last Tuesday, Mitt Romney was so convinced the national election would go his way he reportedly didn’t even draft a concession speech. As a proven top flight executive, it defies logic that Governor Romney would be so unprepared regarding an outcome he could not control.  I have to attribute this miscalculation mostly to his staff that apparently didn’t have a firm handle on electorate variables and realities to properly advise Mr Romney last week’s outcome wasn’t certain.
Mitt Romney is hardly the first last or only leader to get insufficient insights and direction from trusted staff. With alarming consistency across Corporate America, mid and senior managers filter and package information designed to either make themselves look good or to have their executive team feel good. The end result is always omnishambles.
Even during flush economic times successful businesses engage a series of problem solving exercises. Clearly, problems cannot be effectively solved if they are not fully evaluated. When facts are altered and factors shaded, even the best and brightest executive teams cannot make wise decisions. But the omnishambles cycle is not restricted to a activities below the C Suite.
We are all familiar with companies that run board meetings like they are dog and pony shows, designed to entertain and mollify board members instead of using these critical sessions to address serious issues and get the board’s advice and counsel. More often than not these boards are comprised of mostly investors or others captive to the company’s success so they accept what they are told, triggering even greater degrees of omnishambles.
Based on my professional experiences, I strongly believe the short-term mentality that has taken hold of Corporate America is omnishambles’ primary culprit. The courage necessary to tackle difficult problems simply poses greater risk than it offers reward when companies are guided strictly by each moment. While true leaders don’t neglect the short term they remain ever-mindful of longer-range implications and consequences
Given the inadequacy of true leadership in 2012, Oxford English Dictionary got it right! Omnishambles is the word of this year. And as always, true leaders will determine 2013’s Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year.
Leave a Reply