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The backdown boogie

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

We’re familiar with political “backdowns” like that on capital gains tax, where a concept once strongly promoted gets dumped following controversy.

It seems incredible that projects kick off in full knowledge of the challenge they face, only to be dumped when that challenge is directly experienced.  The complexity of democratic politics means we expect and perhaps tolerate the waste of money, and the dead weight of eventually fruitless discussion and anguish.

But it’s another thing to see the same phenomenon in the business world, a place where you might expect costs and fruitless endeavour to be given short shrift.

Yet organisations are now more prepared to dump products, service plans and marketing campaigns soon after release.

As it would have been with the capital gains tax, the tactical argument is that reversing plans in the face of disagreement restores normality by showing a willingness to listen.

Dumping plans inflicts heavier and longer-lasting damage on reputation. It eats away at audience trust of an organisation to make good judgments – in effect to be any good at its job.

The insidious result of dumping is that the organisation looks to lack the courage and confidence in its own decisions.

This is effectively a failure of public relations: a failure to persuade people that the thing you have planned or made is any good.

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