Executives are traversing what futurist Mary O’Hara-Devereaux called the Badlands, in her 2004 book, called: Navigating the Badlands: Thriving in the Decade of Radical Transformation. It would be a lot easier if the journey were obvious but it’s not. Increasingly executives are making their decisions in a zone of ambiguity, not entirely certain or clear what the outcome will be. Mistakes will happen.

Take the recent decision by Earls, a restaurant chain, to source their beef for Canadian restaurants from a humanely certified supplier in Kansas. The backlash from beef growers in Canada forced Earls to reverse their decision.

Here is what Earls recognized.

Values of consumers are changing.

People care about the ethical source of their beef (food) and how the animal died. Switching to a certified humanely source of beef is in alignment with those values. The Canadian cattle industry has paid less attention to consumers, rigidly sticking to time honoured traditions. Awareness of ethical killing came to public attention after Temple Grandin redesigned the killing chutes for MacDonalds. These animals know they are going to their death. The goal is to die in a place of peace. The benefit is not just to the animal but to the quality of meat as Temple Grandin explains.

People value humane treatment of the animals they’re eating and the quality of meat.

So what did Earls miss? 

Sourcing Local Strengthens Relationships

The cattle lobby is huge both north and south of the border but while it’s powerful it isn’t necessarily attuned to the needs of their biggest client – the restaurants that buy their product. Earl’s pays attention to its supply chain and made a values-based decision but appear to have omitted 1) mapping the impact of the decision on supplier relations and 2) considering the value of buying local (which has carbon footprint implications).

Earls made a commendable move toward humanely sourced beef. Can Canadian ranchers see the merit of keeping up with consumer values? Can they use their impressive lobbying power to help Earls bring the supply chain up to ethical standards? Earls has the buying power to motivate Alberta ranchers and the feedlots (that add the additives consumers don’t want) to meet their requirements. Partnering for solutions is a logical approach.

Using Mistakes

Was the mistake Earls made avoidable? Yes, yet mistakes will happen. It’s always best to learn from mistakes to heighten awareness and clarity of focus especially in ambiguous situations where the outcome appears deceptively predictable but is not.

What could Earls have done?

Explore more options.

  1. Statistically speaking three options increases the chance of accuracy. One of the options could have been working on the supply chain (specific feedlots) to remove additives and hormones.
  2. Another option could include partnering with other restaurants to introduce humane killing methods if existing abattoirs refuse to change.

Making decisions in ambiguity demands a huge upgrade in executive awareness and skills.

Read on the Huffington Post: 10 Tips for Executive Decision Making in Ambiguity

Contact me to do a Decision Making retrospective to use mistakes to your advantage by strengthening your decision making process.

Update to the story. Earl’s has found suppliers in Alberta who can provide the quality of beef they are looking for. Story June 22, 2016






The global and business issues we face today require full employee engagement and a different thinking. Dawna loves to work collaboratively to evolve and transform workplaces to be more ‘fit’, agile and inspiring. By shifting perspective to expose the invisible elements creating routine results, clients gain the strength and clarity needed to remove barriers to growth. Intelligent and intuitive insights strengthen leadership capacity to use complexity fluently and grow beyond the limitations of profit to achieve greater prosperity and value. To activate a quantum leap in leadership, Dawna started the Evolutionary Provocateur podcast in 2008. Author of Decision Making for Dummies, a speaker and a tad nomadic, Dawna is currently working on using Virtual and Augmented Reality to accelerate business culture change and human potential. An original thinker, she brings personal experience with resilience and transformation to her leadership. www.FromInsightToAction.com


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