Operative Reality

Let’s talk operative reality for a moment. 

Sometimes the resource-doctrine divide goes out of whack and all you can do is hang loose and take it easy as the ship rights itself and your world finds balance.

Other times you gotta take your world by the reins and determine destiny.

What do I mean? 

Imagine for a moment that you made plans to host a fancy meal. You make a special shopping trip (a tactical maneuver to fulfill this very important objective). Let’s say you then go out on some errands and return to find that much of the food which you bought and prepared was eaten by your cat.

Now, without debating or discussing the issue of surprise – a topic unto itself – it is important to recognize that the operative stage in a creative process is a balancing act of epic proportions – and yours was just thrown out of balance.

After you get over the shock, one of the very first things we would have to do is determine if there’s enough time – since time is a resource we can’t get back – to still meet the goals set forth for objective “make fancy dinner.” Once we do that, and if we determine that there is time, we next need to see if we have the other resources necessary to successfully accomplish operation “fancy dinner.”

Having budgeted your groceries for the week, you’re now finding yourself in an uncomfortable situation. How much are you prepared to change your goals – the menu, the number of people you’re inviting, and the overall objective? Are you prepared to cancel the event? How will that impact your vision for an ideal week?

And how much impact will your choice have on the menu for the rest of the week? What if you hadn’t planned a multiday menu expecting to eat leftovers for a day or two?

Due to limitations in your resources, you may find yourself overextended. That is if you intend on making no changes to your strategy – that ideal vision you planned for your week. You’re going to find that the balance has moved towards your resources – now flowing away with significantly less control.

But the reason you’re overextended is not because of the lack of resources, it is because of a belief that what you were doing is of greater import than the resources at stake. 

That is a doctrinal decision. And doctrine is the counterweight to resources. It is our doctrine that limits or permits the use of resources in working towards our objectives. Furthermore, it is a mix of doctrine and resources that help to prioritize and organize for future events.

How many times has a military found itself overextended on a mission that fell beyond the cultural and doctrinal norms and values of the society they represented? How many times were military actions denied because they demanded the use of resources (like nuclear weapons) that were not applicable given doctrine?

We know that the military can find itself drawing on resources over an extended period of time to undertake actions well beyond the limits that the citizens are willing to accept. But the government supports these actions because they were unable to adjust their objectives and priorities.

How many times do we overextend ourselves in our business or personal lives, taking on more operative objectives than our resources permit because of some ideal dream? Mostly because of our doctrine and how we were indoctrinated (don’t read the negative of that word – think influenced over time).

I’m lying on my back right now because I overextended this past week. My operative reality is such that I used too many hit points and reached several points of exhaustion. In the world of dungeons and dragons that means I’m now rolling at a disadvantage for almost everything I try and do. 

The only solution is a long rest and recuperation. Which requires a great deal of doctrinal restraint on my part – because I’m not the kind of person who likes to lie around doing nothing. 

But this is my operative reality at the moment. And failing to engage reality as it is can have severe and in some cases fatal ramifications. For me, for companies, and for nations.

Sometimes reality asks more of us than we should give, and we give anyway because we believe we should. Because we are determined to make our vision – our desired destiny – our reality.

Without judgement, this is the nature of operative decision-making. It is what makes middle management so hard. It is what makes, and often breaks, creative processes. It directly impacts our relationships in our everyday lives. 

Here’s to a new week with new objectives, new experiences, and more hard choices.


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