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The Right Compromise

“Half a loaf is better than no bread.”

One has to start out with what is right rather than what is acceptable (let alone who is right) precisely because one always has to compromise in the end. But if one does not know what is right to satisfy the specifications and boundary conditions, one cannot distinguish between the right compromise and the wrong compromise—and will end up by making the wrong compromise.

There are two different kinds of compromise. One kind is expressed in the old proverb, “Half a loaf is better than no bread.” The other kind is expressed in the story of the Judgment of Solomon, which was clearly based on the realization that “half a baby is worse than no baby at all.” In the first instance, the boundary conditions are still being satisfied. The purpose of bread is to provide food, and half a loaf is still food. Half a baby, however, does not satisfy the boundary conditions. For half a baby is not half of a living and growing child. It is a corpse in two pieces.

ACTION POINT: Now think through the problem you specified in the two previous readings. Make a decision that represents a compromise, half a loaf, but goes in the right direction toward the ideal solution. Then think of a compromise that is “no bread at all.”

The Effective Executive

* Source: The Daily Drucker by Peter F. Drucker

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