My Pi-spective on the Dead Cat Bounce


(A pi-spective is where you write about something using only 314 words)

A dead cat bounce is a financial term: it means a short recovery following a decline. The idea behind it is that even a dead cat will bounce if it falls from a great height.

A dead cat bounce is only noticeable in hindsight. During the short recovery its hard to tell if it's going to last or not. Sometimes we can model a dead cat bounce. At other times its indistinguishable from a longer recovery.

I don't write about financial topics: I'm smart enough to know what I don't know. But there is an idea behind the dead cat bounce that does apply to my domain: the study of changing management practices.

The idea is that an improvement can occur that is unrelated to management intervention. Yes there was a bounce, but there was always going to be a bounce. It had nothing to do with you. The result was an inevitable consequence a prior action.

Albert Camus touched on this: "... the last pages of a book are already contained in the first pages. Such a link is inevitable". Clayton Christensen discussed it as 'resource dependence' in The Innovators Dilemma: "... "that managers are powerless to change the courses of their firms against the dictates of their customers"

My view of the practice of management is that it is fundamentally an exercise in creativity. It is generative, positive and constructive. It is about focusing energy on social change to bring about innovation.

The best management professionals look over the horizon and understand futurity: they consider the future effects of today's actions.

What does this have to do with a dead cat bounce? Because some management professionals claim to specialize in recovery, particularly of late projects.

But the short term is full of bouncing dead cats. Beware short-termism. Only the long view will reveal the truly professional manager: the best decisions are effective for years.

Image by Todd Quackenbush