Ready. Fire. Aim

Gen. Stanley McChrystal. BP Plc Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward. They have sparked some spirited discussions with crisis communications and leadership experts. How could savvy, high-visibility pros go so wrong?

Clearly, they both would have benefitted from a little more aiming and a lot less firing. But it would be a shame if our only lesson from their stunning blunders is to be afraid to take a risk.

Professional advisors are by nature risk-averse. Most of us were trained analytically. We want predictable, accurate results most of the time. It’s what clients pay us for.

But what if what we really need to do—sometimes—is to fire first? Interpreting a highly technical IRS guideline might not be the place to experiment. But choosing to stop working on—or delegating—a predictable (yet mind-numbing) revenue stream to create white space could be just the ticket.

Forging new territory never comes with a money-back guarantee. So yes, learn from the gaffes made by the warrior and the CEO. But don’t let it rob you of the courage to take a calculated risk.

Ready. Fire. Aim. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing.


  • Ed Rosenbaum

    What if advisors were not so anylitical and risk adverse? I am almost the opposite. I don't believe in "Ready, fire, aim. But I don't want to lose a lot of time in the ready, aim steps either.


  • Rochelle Moulton

    It's an interesting thought Ed–thanks for sharing it. Like you, I've found that entrepreneurial consultants tend to not want to spend a lot of "ready aim" time. The challenge is striking the right balance between analysis and action. One idea is to have a sounding board–your personal posse–for the big decisions. One or two folks who know you well and have some wisdom to share. My posse has saved me on several occasions 🙂

  • Mike Van Horn

    It seems that your comments belie the notion of "ready, fire, aim."

    Willingness to take a risk doesn't mean "going off half-cocked" or "shooting yourself in the foot."

    If you don't pause to aim (think it through, get advice, etc.) you don't hit the target, and your courageous shot is wasted. You look like "the gang that couldn't shoot straight."

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Hey Mike,
    Your 2nd paragraph is exactly my point–sometimes advisors equate the two. "The gang that couldn't shoot straight" is the perfect analogy. Thank you!

  • Katie

    Here's an interesting twist. I've worked with consultants who fire, aim, ready. For them it would be taking a risk to actually ready and aim. Seriously, I don't think they know how and are afraid to try!

    What was really a nightmare was working between two consultants; one who ready aimed too much and one who just did a lot of firing.

    Thanks for the post. All this firing squad talk is fun 🙂

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Great insight Katie! Thanks for sharing–bet you never forgot those 2…..

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