Organizations advance through initiatives; revising strategies, innovating products, improving processes, creating new ventures, integrating acquisitions, executing projects, going digital. In today’s business culture, where no one can be seen to be standing still or moving too slowly, where ‘real leaders’ are those involved in five to ten initiatives at a time, and one minute is now 59 seconds too long, action is the order of the day.
Any action, just do something. Anything is better than nothing. Fire, ready, aim. Just get started, you can figure the rest out on the way. For goodness sake, just don’t get caught sitting quietly at your desk thinking. Not moving is a career limiting move. Plan a meeting, run a workshop. Make like a shark and always be swimming. Stop; you die. In fact, we all might die, and then look what you’ve done. Because you weren’t taking action we’ve all lost our jobs.
After all, you’re going to take good action. We know you wouldn’t take bad action. Even unilateral action is better than inaction. Delayed action would be bad action, so would conflicting action. We assume it’ll be synergistic action, or collaborative action. Whatever you call it, just do some of it.
You’re not sure what action? No problem. We don’t even need the Easy button for that one; just call a meeting. Put one slide up describing the problem or opportunity. Throw out “What do you think we should do?” and in five minutes you’ll have enough actions to fill a flipchart. Spend the next five minutes getting everyone to put colored dots on their preferred actions and you’ll have those puppies sequenced before your coffee’s cooled down enough to take your first sip. You get the point I’m making?
When I say action, I mean rapid action. That’s the type they love. Don’t worry if it’s not the best action. Perfect’s the enemy of progress, remember. You’ve read that book, haven’t you? No? Good. Neither did I. Reading isn’t acting. Someone told me about the book and the concept while I was taking some action. So, go get some actions you need to take and get the first one started. Then you can ask for some budget, get some colleagues, give it a name, and you’ll have yourself an initiative. In no time at all you’ll have a few workstreams underway, all ensuring we stay employed. Then you’ll get recognized, you’ll soon be on six initiatives too, helping others come up with their actions. What do you mean, what if someone proposes an action and someone doesn’t think it’s a good idea? Well that’s how you get your leadership chops. Let them run for 30 minutes debating its merits then conclude with what action they all now agree should be taken. Assign an owner and your bit’s done.
One warning, though. Watch out for anyone that wants to talk first. You might get one of those smart Alecs in the group who wants everyone to first agree why any action is necessary. Apparently, you telling them why they need to take action is not good enough for these people. Someone at an outfit called SchellingPoint did some research and found out that if you’re foolish enough to ask your group why they think action on something might be necessary, they’ll list about 30 different reasons, only all agree on 6 of them and disagree on the other 24. What?!
Open that trapdoor and next minute you’ll be tied up listing fundamental assumptions and assertions and watching your group debate whether something is or isn’t the case. And you’ll just think you’ve got that genie back in the bottle and finally ready to talk action, when no, hold on bucko, they’ll want you to get the group to agree what outcomes would indicate success. Apparently, your group will have 66 ways of defining success but only all agree on 15 of them. Here we go again, blah blah blah number two. And they won’t let you slip by with a few easy platitudes, either, they’ll make you put numbers to everything. Only then will they take the straightjacket off and let you talk about actions.
And because they have to be actions that support those measurable outcomes, some of the great ideas you had five hours ago that now seems like five years ago can’t even be brought up. Outcomes smoutcomes. Who thinks up things like SMART goals? What was ever wrong with I’ll know it when I see it and if it’s sound action it’ll produce something worthwhile. People sat at desks thinking, that’s who. Worse, what will really make you want to throw yourself off the building, is that everyone will be so kumbaya’ed, your nice one or two year long initiative, with plenty of herding cats, unplanned budget requests, and missed milestone deep-dives to look forward to, all good leadership training, got done in four months. Where’s the fun in that?
Remember me, pal, you heard it here first. As soon as anyone mentions using the Advanced Management Consulting process and how you can go from idea to benefit in 1/3 of the time, get my secretary to text them there’s a fire at their house. Otherwise you’ll find yourself sat at that desk with too much thinking time.