Begin with the End in Mind

Sep 7 , 2019
By Tibebu Bekele

Stephen Covey, in his widely read book The Seven Habits of Highly effective People, talks about how successful leaders start a project by beginning with the end in mind. That is by, first of all, visualising what they want to see at the end of the project. In other words, strategy comes before tactics. Tactics are only a means to get to the place the strategic vision is supposed to lead to.

As the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” Tactical brilliance without clearly set strategic goals will make a leader lose his soul and get his followers lost wandering in the wilderness.

A quick look at the Ethiopian political scene will leave one’s head spinning in all directions as a plethora of groups and entities take positions on different issues that seem to lack any coherence with any core beliefs. The alliances made and unmade in lightning speed are disorienting. Talk about strange bedfellows; they are everywhere. The only thing consistent is their inconsistency. It makes one wonder if there is a grand strategy to it all?

Or is it only a limited addiction to winning the next battle. In the current polarised environment of us versus them, every faction may be too focused on planning the next battle that they may have forgotten what the war was all about. They may be neglecting the lesson of history that it is sometimes possible to win a battle but lose the war.

In addition to the intoxicating addiction of winning small battles just for tactical reasons without taking a moment for long-term strategic considerations, there is also the addiction to revenge. Those who feel hard done by past historical circumstances are faced with the hard choice of deciding between seeking redress or revenge.

Revenge is about taking any retaliatory action against a perceived wrongdoer person, group or institution.  It is about causing pain to another. It is about destroying another. It is not building anything in its place. The satisfaction comes from the knocking down itself. It is not a concern about justice; it is only about paying back for some past injustice. The problem with it is that it does not point the way to a more just future. It only succeeds in turning victims into perpetrators. It is shortsighted.

Redress, on the other hand, is concerned with justice. It is more forward-looking than backward - looking. It does not ignore the past, but it only uses it to learn from mistakes. Its focus is the building of a more just future. It is about the wronged making things right for all people. That is a call for greatness. Unfortunately, it is hard to find many that are trying to answer this call for greatness.

Fixing what is broken is one thing; destroying what is broken is quite another. It could be that some may have concluded that the broken is unfixable and not worth saving. They may even have decided to destroy and discard it. But first of all, they need to be sure that it is what they really want. Secondly, they need to visualise what the alternative is. Discarding is one thing, replacing quite another. One may be so sick of their old possession that they do not even want to see it again. But the question is whether one has something else prepared to replace it with. If that is the case, the least they owe those who blindly follow them is the truth. They should tell them where they are trying to lead them to. It is wise to start with the end in mind.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 07,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1010]

Tibebu Bekele (, who is interested in constructive dialogue and civil engagement.

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