August 28; Ten Percent Never Get The Word
365 Daily Bible Verse &
One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful


Chapter Eight: Communication; 28 August

…Now I know in part; then I shall know fully…

1 Corinthians 13:12b

Ten Percent Never Get The Word*


Winston Churchill once said, “I’ll never understand why the German army did not finish the British Army at Dunkirk.” He got his answer later,

…a German commander who had been captured by the British after the successful Allied invasion of France was asked just that. Why, the commander was asked, did you not finish off the British at Dunkirk when you had the chance?

…the commander replied, “I had no orders!” Rumsfeld, Donald (2013-05-14). Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life (Kindle Locations 3569-3574). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

This is the communication challenge of every manager: If a directive is issued, then,

  1. Will it be right?
  2. Will it be received?
  3. Will it be done?

The story is told of an Army Colonel who issued the following statement to his executive secretary:

“Tomorrow evening at approximately 2000 hours Haley’s Comet will be visible in this area, an event that occurs only once every 75 years.

Have the men fall out in fatigues, and I will explain this rare phenomenon to them. In case of rain, we will not be able to see anything, so assemble the men in the theatre and I will show them films of it.”

The executive secretary passed the order on to the company commanders: “By order of the Colonel, tomorrow at 2000 hours, Haley’s Comet will appear above the battalion area.

If it rains, fall the men out in fatigues, then march to the theater where the rare phenomenon will take place, something which happens only once every 75 years.”

A company commander passed the order on to his lieutenants: “By order of the Colonel in fatigues at 2000 hours tomorrow evening, the phenomenal Haley’s Comet will appear in the theater.

In case of rain in the battalion area, the Colonel will give another order, something which happens once every 75 years.”

A lieutenant told his sergeants: “Tomorrow at 2000 hours, the Colonel in fatigues will appear in the theater with the phenomenal Haley’s Comet, something that happens every 75 years.

If it rains, the Colonel will order the comet into the battalion area.”

The sergeant gave the following orders to his squads: “When it rains tomorrow at 2000 hours, the phenomenal 75-year-old General Haley, accompanied by the Colonel, will drive his Ford Comet through the battalion area in fatigues.”

Managers should train and develop teams that can take appropriate action in the absence of orders.


Most of the time the managers are more concerned with having direct reports do what they are told. Simply to do what the organization needs: compliance to directives.

The CEO’s directives often get lost in translation or in transmission.

The Manager’s initial order was not what was received by the troops in the trenches. This is why managers make and deserve so much money– dealing with the imperfection of the crooked timber of the human condition.

Even technology has this challenge in dropped cell phone calls and packet loss on the internet. However, technology can be improved much faster than human interaction. This is why we need higher education and continuous improvement (which is, in fact, assured continuous employment for consultants, thankyouverymuch).

So. Managers, ten percent of your team will never get your commands.

Data will be garbled in transmission.

The information will be wrong.

The team will execute the directive wrong.

And the manager will make the wrong decision about half the time.

One wonders, “How on earth can organizations get anything right…?” This is why managers earn the incomes that they do.

The best method of communication with the least risk of misunderstanding is an in-person, face-to-face conversation. Or as writer C. S. Lewis might say, ‘Till We Have Faces.

… Now I know in part; then I shall know fully…1 Corinthians 13:12b


*Army cliché



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