The Fact-Free Universe


Some days one just feels out of sorts.

You can’t exactly put your finger on what’s wrong, but something clearly is.

Cause and effect don’t seem to be working. The comforting normal logic that usually holds everything together seems to have taken some ‘paid-time-off’.

Then it hits you.

People are saying stuff, but none of it is making any sense. Lips are moving, but nothing useful is implanting in your brain.

Folks are repeating the same nonsense – over and over – in the fond hope that if they repeat it enough times, it will somehow become true.

Welcome to the fact-free universe.

Things didn’t used to be this way.

The objectively observable – what we used to call facts – used to underlie our entire intellectual lives.

It didn’t matter what the sphere of discourse was. Public Policy. Science. Technology. And most assuredly, Commerce. Commerce, above all things, was firmly rooted in the most objective of facts, the dollar.

But then something happened.

It likely started in politics, where the distinction between ‘Facts’ and various grades of untruth, ranging from ‘the excusable spin’, to ‘the misrepresentation’, to ‘the inexcusable fabrication’ all the way through ‘the jaw dropping whopper’, were just a little less clear cut.

Things generally deteriorated when the internet, media and new media collaborated to create an entire ecosystem for reinforcing statements which were not based in fact. Repetition was essentially substituted for objectively observable truth – “Say something enough times and people will falsely conclude that it is true”.

Soon, that system was spun all the way up and working well enough that people saying stuff that was so far out there – so far removed from fact – became just another everyday occurrence. That it became something that people stopped paying attention to.

And that my friend, was most assuredly not a good thing.

Because with Politics, at least the fact free universe was confined within a cosmically small proportioned box.

But then, it got out.

And like the Manhattan Project’s bright flash in the desert of Alamogordo, a chain reaction began that we’re not entirely confident will ever actually stop.

Lately, I’ve been seeing it showing up in IT Service Business contexts, and I’m not sure I have the toolset to deal with it effectively.

The signs are pretty easy to recognize.

There will be an very very expensive suit. Inside the suit is either an attorney who has never been present in previous conversations, or a consultant from one of the 10 firms that make their bullion by negotiating-IT-Service-deals-by-proxy.

The job of the-person-in-the-suit will be to say things on behalf of his client that his client would struggle mightily to say without busting out laughing.

Folks that have sat across the table from me always inevitably remark on my ability to remain calm, civil, and tell people that they are completely whack-a-doodle in a way that somehow escapes their notice and that they inexplicably end up feeling good about.

It’s a talent.

But folks that will sidle up to me and smilingly say stuff that has nothing to do with the world in which I live and work have lately caused me to take and extra breath or three before I speak.

“I’m sorry, but you cannot ask me to agree to service penalties of two million dollars on a service contract worth one hundred thousand dollars.”

“I’m sorry, but we cannot agree to guarantee end-to-end availability on a network where we only provide 10% of the total connection path and devices.”

“I’m sorry, but I cannot agree to a master agreement where we agree in advance to the types and amounts of lawsuits to be filed against us for various forms of service degradation.”

“I’m sorry, but we cannot agree to a 2 hour onsite hardware repair commitment for your ‘field office’ in the hills on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Calm. Civil. Based in fact.

If the person on the other side of the table doesn’t engage on these terms then, and wants to stay out in the twilight zone, it’s a walk away.

I always say precisely what I will do, and work to ensure that I and my companies do exactly that.

I’ve spoken before about the need for absolute transparency in conducting IT Service business. That quality of communications is completely symmetrical – it’s a two way street. If both parties to the transaction aren’t equally committed to being clear and unambiguous, then the conversation is just a monologue.

An organization that will resort to these kinds of tactics is simply not going to be a trustworthy business partner – not because they will use untruths to gain advantage, but because they may have squandered their ability to differentiate the truth from something less. One can’t have any assurances that customers will perceive value and that suppliers will make money in an environment devoid of objective facts – performance, commitments, measured timings. Some organizations have gone so far out into the fact free universe, that they can’t even find their way back to the objective world in which the rest of us live and work


One thought on “The Fact-Free Universe

  1. It really is a fact free universe, and this is not only in the management world, but in everything in life.
    We technically depend on lies to make our decisions, and those lies are getting bigger.

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