Intentions and Results

Home » Culture & Structure » Intentions and Results

We can hold people accountable for intentions, but not always results. Why? – because external factors that could not be anticipated sometimes are the determinants of the results. However, for leaders, developing effective strategies means anticipating possible factors that are likely to influence the outcomes; therefore it’s appropriate to hold them accountable.

I began thinking about this when I started putting together some recent news items which demonstrate the hazards of not being a strategic thinker who, as Michael Porter notes, has to take into account situational circumstances.

At this moment, ISIS, theIslamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is presenting such a significant threat to people living in Iraq, and possibly to other people in the Mideast and rest of the world, that President Obama has reversed his decision to “get out of Iraq†at almost any cost, in order to save lives of the Yazidi refugees and people who rely on the Mosul dam. This weekend the Wall Street Journal reported on one reason that ISIS is so powerful that the US is considering going after ISIS in both countries where they have strong bases: Iraq and Syria.

If so, this produces an interesting irony. Apparently Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, when fighting the “rebelsâ€, which included groups like the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and ISIS, made a calculated decision by to go easy on ISIS and focus on the FSA  – who were asking for US and other countries help and, despite Assad’s crossing of Obama’s “red-lineâ€, were denied the support. Obama’s intention of not intervening in the Syrian civil war has led Assad to re-assert his power in rebel-held cities and he is now close to defeating the FSA completely. This leaves ISIS as his only opposition.

This weekend, US army officials, while developing plans to stop ISIS in Iraq are also contemplating whether to attack their strongholds in Syria.  Assuming this happens, note the ironic results of the US’s intentions: we wanted regime change in Syria, but weren’t willing to support the FSA against President Assad’s forces; now we may be allying ourselves with Assad to defeat ISIS – and have complete control.

In other words, Assad’s strategy intent is producing the desired results: getting rid of the opponent who the US wouldn’t support may lead the US to actually come to his aid against ISIS. In contrast, America’s intent of non-intervention may put us in a position of aiding Assad. Obviously, another option is for the US not to intervene and let ISIS and Assad fight it out. However, either side’s victory is desirable from world peace and humanitarian care perspectives.  It will be interesting to see what will happen.