Leaders have responsibilities towards all who are under their control or influence. This includes a duty of prudence:
- to thoroughly plan major projects;
- to seek advice and take it into consideration;
- to take account of trends and foreseeable events;
- to consider possible consequences, including trying to anticipate the likely reactions of anyone who might be affected;
- to perform a risk analysis and have contingency plans.
The established practices for project management encompass all these steps. The thoroughness with which they are carried out should be appropriate to the importance of the planned action. It benefits leaders to document the above steps, so that they can demonstrate to any enquiry that they have been prudent – even if things subsequently go wrong.
If events turn out badly, imprudent leaders might hope that no-one would notice that the problems could have been prevented with due care – but, although mistakes and unforeseeable events are inevitable, a failure to have an adequate plan is inexcusable.
It is very difficult to measure prudence, even in retrospect. It is impossible to calculate precisely what would have happened if things have been done differently. Leaders are more likely to be prudent, though, if they know that they will be held accountable for failure to take the necessary care in planning.