The alpha mistake is usually easily spotted. When you accept something you shouldn’t have people will notice. The issue comes when you have failed to accept something, or see something that you should have recognized. This is known as the beta mistake and there is in general little risk with it. Think about not hiring someone who would have been perfect for the job, or not embarking on a project that really should have been executed as it would have brought the company forward. If you hire the wrong person for a job, it will be obvious after a while. When you do a project that
totally fails, it will be obvious after a while. When you fail to hire a person who would have excelled in the job, no one will notice, likewise if you fail to embark on this project that would have been wonderful for your department or business, no one will likely notice. There is little risk with inertia.
These things happen every day and institutional politics and inertia lead to a situation where there little risk anyone will notice the mistake and so great candidates don’t get hired, great advertising campaign never get started and super projects get rejected and no one will ever know if it would have made a difference.
People by their nature do not like change too much. With weak players holding on to the status quo and declining any action that could jeopardize their position, your company or department will in the longer run become stagnant, inert and passed by other departments and companies that did make the brave move and accepted the candidate with the not so obvious resume who turned out to be their next CEO or who embarked on that tricky project that brought them the technology that makes them market leader.
So how do you fight this behavior, how do you encourage your leaders and managers to take appropriate risk and move forward when there are so little consequences of doing nothing and risking nothing? Audits, peer- and sr. management- reviews can help spotting the situation and providing evidence that opportunities have been missed but that’s only after the fact.
Goal Clarity is again a way to a solution here. You need to ensure that your staff understands that you do not hire them to avoid failures but that you hire them to do the right and best things for the department or business. For this you need an environment of openness and trust, understanding and participation by all. Safe and responsible risk taking needs to be accepted and the occasional mishap as a result should not end someones career but instill respect that they have tried and were not afraid to try something in order to do the right thing and not just avoid making mistakes by staying on the beaten path.
To get anything going in your company, some action will be required.
Let’s kick some familiar open doors:
“There are costs and risks to a program of action, but they are far less than the long range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” John F. Kennedy
So old but still so true
Also: “We judge ourselves by our intentions, others judge us by our actions”
So how do your create some action that will be successful and help you accomplish the goals? There are three main points to consider:
Understand where you are
It may now be known by my readers that I’m a stickler for Goal Clarity and understanding where you are means in this context, understanding thoroughly what the goals are and what should be done to accomplish them. Without that knowledge you won’t be able to develop any action.
Know your resources
Consider your network, your budget, your co-workers, employees and support services. Ensure you enlist whoever and whatever is possible to get support for your intended action. The first rule of management is “ask help when solving problems” so look around you to see and recognize the resources available. Great start-ups fail because they are underfunded or lack the proper resources to scale when the first wave of success rolls in. Don’t make that mistake but be prepared with all your resources.
Do something to start and let people know about it. Some teams take an inordinate amount of time planning the perfect action but alas when they get ready to take action the momentum is gone and their action, however powerful it was, has been sideline by a sub-optimal but quicker action of another team. Just get started. Take a small step, celebrate that you have started and move forward. Communicating your start is at the same time a good encouragement to continue. It is like going on a diet or stop smoking, if you share your intention you can count on your environment to “shame” you into continuing. Timing has a lot to do with creating an action that will be successful.
Lists are powerful tools. You can however overdo it and not get any benefits out of your lists.
There are three main reasons to have a list;
- ToDo (action list)
- Goal setting (target list)
- Don’t forget (master list/bucket list)
There can be thousands of other reasons why you make lists, but those will be of a different nature, like a list of members, a list of your cds etc.
The trouble I see often with people making their TODO lists is that they overdo it. Where your Goal Setting list can be a list with dreams that you are striving for, your TODO list should be realistic and filled with obtainable tasks. You want that list to encourage yourself to get through the barrage of little tasks you need to work through to eventually get your goals accomplished. Once you make TODO lists that are too long or too cumbersome to get through, instead of a motivator (in the evening when looking back at a crossed out TODO list) it becomes a demotivator.
There is no hard and fast rule about how many items should feature on your daily TODO list, mine was 11 items yesterday and two of them got started but due to waiting for others to cooperate will feature on the list for today too.
There are many paper and electronic systems for your TODO lists, I use google keep but I used to work with “remember the milk” and I also have some lists stored in “evernote“. See what you like and what works for you.
Good luck with your TODOs, keep it short, keep it real, get it done!