Monday, April 28, 2014

Anything You Do Can Get You In Trouble...

Anything you do can get you in trouble... including doing nothing!

Image courtesy of artur84 /
 Confused yet?

This is one of the first lessons you learn in the military, doing nothing can be worse than doing the wrong thing! Change is rapid and constant, with the window for action closing more and more rapidly each time. If you wait for all the details, until you are 100% sure, then the window is closed (I discussed this several years ago with Colin Powell's Leadership Lessons, but it bares repeating). 

In the military, these decisions meant life or death. A platoon would be in a firefight, and the platoon leader would need to make a decision. The decision at this level usually broke down to: Left or Right, Forward or Back. Do you want your troops to go to the left or to the right? Do you want your troops to advance or retreat? The absolute worst thing you could do was stand still, because that meant the enemy was moving on you. If you waited too long, your platoon was captured or killed. 

Simple decisions, dramatic results. In business, the decisions tend to be more complicated, but (for the most part) lives aren't at stake. However, if you wait for all the details, the opportunity is lost. In most markets today, if you wait for more details, or have the details but get stuck in analysis, then your competition will move and you will lose out on the opportunity. 

Another connotation of this statement would be that bad news doesn't get better with age. People tend to ignore what they don't want to hear, or procrastinate in telling the people who need the information most, hoping for a miracle. In the meantime, the situation gets worse and worse.

As a leader, a mostly right plan implemented today will always be better than a perfect plan implemented next week. In point of fact, a bad decision implemented today is often better than a perfect plan implemented next week. Why? Because an implemented decision provides momentum, and, so long as a leader is ready to adjust to the truth rather than be married to the plan, the opportunity to evaluate, so that (s)he will be able to identify it is the wrong decision and adjust; rather than standing still as the window closes.  The mostly right plan is part of Conceive, with the evaluation and ability to change sits firmly in Command

So, what action are you avoiding? Are you waiting for more details, or afraid of making the wrong decision? Remember, anything you do can get you in trouble, especially doing nothing.

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