Fox Bytes 19 – The spin issue

This is going to hurt.

Saying “we need a turnaround strategy” is a little like saying, “we need some water”…because you’re on fire! It is a scream of panic wrapped in jargon whisper. It’s also the start of a game of pain.

Essentially a turnaround strategy is an admission that the direction a company has gone is wrong, hence the need to turn it around. The ‘wrongness’ is normally shown in successive losses, declining market share, persistent negative cash flows, or loss of employees or clients to competitors.

The possible causes are numerous, but usually point towards bad management, a muddled strategy, and a blindness to changes in the external business environment. In essence: failing to use scenarios in strategy.

Announcing a turnaround strategy is the important first step for a company. It sends the following message to shareholders and investors: “we know something is wrong, but don’t worry everyone, we’re going to fix it!”

What they do next will show if they’re serious.

And that’s why one of the first plays in the game is usually an ‘organisation redesign. 

That’s more jargon. 

It means cutting costs by cutting staff. It’s brutal and it’s painful; it’s also unfortunate, because those culled pay the price for bad decisions made by those above them.

Image: Pixabay

Something for the pain?

Last week Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump’s wife and ‘First Lady of the United States’ (hence: FLOTUS), embarked on what breathless media releases described as a “five-day, four-country tour that will take her to four corners of the continent”. That continent: Africa. The southern ‘corner’ – South Africa – was not on the list.

It’s difficult to tour a country in a day, so Melania had to make quick work of things: hugging a child here…laying a wreath there…

Officially, Melania was in Africa to promote a cause that is close to her heart: child well-being. It’s not uncommon for US first ladies to champion causes. Laura Bush, for example, championed education efforts, Hillary Clinton health initiatives and women’s equality, and Michelle Obama childhood obesity, girls’ education, and military families.

Seasoned reporters, however, saw another agenda in Melania’s lightning visit to Africa: damage control and distraction.

President Trump has been anything but complimentary about Africa, in fact some remarks have been deemed hurtful and offensive. 

He is also looking to cut US aid across the world, most notably Africa.

To that extent a visit by his, arguably more glamorous and complementary, wife would have served the purpose of some TLC for damage done, and pain expected.

Image: Reuters


Bad evidence.

Cats are banned from the Fox Bytes newsroom; the cats we know are no good. 

You could argue that statement is ridiculous because it’s based on limited evidence; but that’s immaterial to the intent of the statement: to suggest the evil nature of cats.

It’s also an example of ‘cherry-picking’ – presenting carefully selected evidence to persuade someone to accept a position, even though a casual study of all the evidence could probably prove the opposite. It is a well-used tactic in ‘spin’ – a form of propaganda that twists (hence: spin) the interpretation of events to suit a specific purpose. Those skilled at ‘spin’ are called ‘spin doctors’.

Here’s another example: a ruling political party, scared it may lose votes in the next election, highlights the few successes it has had as the reason to remain in power. It conveniently ignores its many dramatic failures.

But it’s not only politicians who cherry-pick. Anyone who lifts a verse from a religious text to suit their argument is cherry-picking, as is anyone who embraces the science behind medicine and mobile phone technology but rejects the same science that provides evidence of climate change.

Or anyone who says cats are cool because they slumber in sunbeams.

Cherry-picking – little to do with cherries, a lot to do with cats.

Image: Kevin Eslinger

[These articles originally appeared in Issue 19 of Fox Bytes (you can view it here) in the week of 08 October 2018. Growing Foxes is a school strategic intelligence programme designed by mindofafox. It is being piloted in a number of leading schools in the UK and South Africa. Fox Bytes is published weekly to support those students currently engaging with the programme. Click on the logo to find out more]