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The pattern of failure: the Yosemite curve

Field Marshal Montgomery famously said that ‘the great thing about doing no preparation is that failure comes as a complete surprise’, and failure does indeed come as a great surprise. But why should that be, why does it catch us unawares and make us realise that the situation we are in is different, quite different, from what we’d thought? The element of surprise is important because there isn’t typically a slow, gradual slide into failure. Again and again managers, people, businesses, organisations think they’re all right, then all of a sudden, too late, they realise they are a long, long way from that. They are not progressing gently downhill but cascading unstoppably.

When I first became CEO ...

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