Bystander Apathy

Bored WEBIn his book, The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business, Josh Kaufman describes a phenomenon he calls “bystander apathy.” In essence, Mr. Kaufman suggests that any project without a leader won’t get completed. He cites committees as a perfect example, as they often do not have a leader and a project can linger inside a committee literally for years. Your organization’s strategic plan can be met with the same fate without accountable leadership.

Many leaders believe that change needs to involve everyone, and that’s a good thing. However, handing responsibility for that change off to everyone or anyone besides the executive team is not so good. Change begins at the top. Further, executives must be involved and held accountable throughout the change process. Much of this begins when developing the strategic plan.

While a strategic plan often has projects assigned to specific people who are to complete them, without someone at the helm for accountability, it’s not likely to happen. For example, let’s say Fred and Bill are assigned the task of “continuing use of social media.” What’s wrong with this assignment?

  • It’s not specific enough. How many friends do you want on your Facebook page? What type of articles do you want posted on your LinkedIn page? How many followers do you want on Twitter?
  • Have Bill and Fred created a timeline with steps to be in place at targeted dates?
  • Who is in charge, Fred or Bill? If you, the CEO is in charge, how do you plan to follow-up?
  • If Fred or Bill report in your executive team meeting, what is that reporting like? Are they just saying, we’re making progress? Or We’re still working on developing the Facebook page? Ask for specifics. These questions can come from any executive team member as this is how a team holds itself accountable.

As the CEO, are you keeping up with the strategic plan? Just sending out an email and asking, “Hey, does anyone have any changes to the strategic plan.?”, doesn’t quite make the grade. If you don’t place any importance or value on ensuring that the strategic plan is alive and well, neither will anyone else. Don’t let your strategic plan and change initiatives fail by being an apathetic bystander to their demise.

Thank you for reading this blog. If you would like to discuss keeping your strategic plan alive and well, call 404-320-7834, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit

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