NOT YET – and not NO – is your largest enemy

I have frequently written about change. Change sucks because its difficult to get out of our comfort zone, no matter how uncomfortable that comfort zone may be. We sometimes simply change at a superficial level when what is really needed is a Change of Heart. And what we are most scared of is not the final destination but the ensuing chaos as soon as change happens – something that Stockholm experienced as it moved to the right on September 3, 1967.

We are typically convinced that change ultimately leads to something good. If only, we can take and sustain the plunge that leads us to the promised land.

What is most difficult is to take that plunge. And once we do, it’s equally difficult to sustain the plunge in the immediate chaos that follows. Most of us either don’t start at the first hurdle, or fall back at the second.

Lets focus on the first hurdle – not taking the plunge for the fear of what may follow, despite knowing that the promised destination is what we want (and sometimes what we need).

Seth Godin is a fantastic writer, speaker and thinker on entrepreneurship and building communities. His model of tribes for communities is simply awesome, and the book a must read for any leader.

Godin said of this fear of taking plunge, and the core motivation behind it, brilliantly in his Tribes book:

The largest enemy of change and leadership isn’t a “no.” It’s a “not yet.” “Not yet” is the safest, easiest way to forestall change. “Not yet” gives the status quo a chance to regroup and put off the inevitable for just a little while longer. Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.

And he goes on to say about the reasons of not doing and the fear of chaos …

“It’s not time,” “Take it easy,” “Wait and see,” “It’s someone else’s turn” – none of these stalls are appropriate for a leader in search of change. There’s a small price for being too early, but a huge penalty for being too late.”

And then he also gave  probably the world’s simplest yet most powerful relationship to illustrate what the literati would dub as “strike the iron while it’s hot”

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Change always has a context – an optimal window. It’s not abstract, timeless or an invariant. It is a function of time, environment and opportunity.

Success equals to grabbing the opportunity of change at the right time and taking the plunge through chaos. A wait for certainty is a wait forever.

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Anatomy of a Good Decision

An executive in a knowledge organization is making decisions every day. The nature and scope of these decisions vary from small approvals to making strategic long-term choices. But what is always there in an executive’s life is plenty of decision-making. The thing worse than making wrong decision is making no decisions. An executive with a stalled decision-making capability – potentially always in an analysis-paralysis mode – is headed nowhere.

9758917325_93c0df18baDecision are also very obvious and public. You see world leaders announcing their picks for key appointments or a major foreign policy decision very publicly. Business leaders make sure their organization’s key strategic decisions of going into a new market or making an acquisition are known to everyone.

This sometime can make one see decisions as events rather than a process.  Making a decision is the end of a process, not just execution of an event. There is a lot of homework and evaluation done behind every major decision. Announcing or communicating those decisions to stakeholder is the event that potentially completes the process.

So what does that process entail – or should entail?

Evaluating at the highest conceptual level While what may come to an executive’s desk for a decision may be the result of a specific situation – news of a competitor’s buy-out, a bad review of a product, a request for a meeting, an unexpected resignation – it needs to be evaluated at the highest conceptual level. What does this event relate into? Which compartment of the organization does it belong to? An executive, while thoroughly triages the event or situation, connects it to a ‘bigger picture’ and makes a decision based on how he believes and has planned to do in the bigger scheme of things. The response is part of a bigger policy rather than an ad-hoc and arbitrary response to a situation. For example, how does the company generally handle bad news? what is the company’s policy to respond to bad press? how does the resignation of an employee fit into company’s year long employment plans?

This ability to raise from the chaos and smoke of the battlefield to a strategic location with a wider view is critical to effective decisions. There is no such thing as an independent and isolated decision. Every decision fits into a bigger whole.

Evaluating the alternatives Every good decision is made after evaluating the alternatives. Explicitly crafting and thinking them out is critical to a balanced decision. An executive mind’s runs through parallel decision paths before converging on one. It is never a linear process. For example: how would the top three candidates do in a particular role? how does a decision to invest in a particular market compares to alternate decisions to invest in another market or to not investing at all.

The challenge is that these alternatives are mostly not obvious. They have to crafted out, imagined, brought to life and made part of the decision-making process.

Defining actions to implement Drucker said that decision are merely statement of intentions unless they are associated with actions to implement them. At least an action to get started. That is what happens everyday. Decisions are made, declared and hyped – but they never get implemented. Immediately defining and associating a set of actions along with the decision will entail effective implementation. For example a decision to expand a team is associated with release of budget and communication to HR; or a decision to meet an executive from another business unit is immediately followed by sending the request to schedule to his staff.

Communicating the decision Every decision has stakeholders – people who are or can be affected or those who need to be informed. One of the most logical immediate ‘action items’ associated with a decision is to communicate the decision to the stakeholders. For example, updating HR about a decision to hire or informing the company’s shareholders about a strategic business direction. Communication is part of the task.

Follow up Most decisions require a long-term implementation or monitoring. Many decisions get lost in organizational chaos if not properly followed up or checked on for progress and input. All systems and processes move towards chaos – unless they are checked upon, followed through and refined and energized as required.

Feedback – the Candy Crush Way!

If you have lately been unproductive, there is a good chance that you are addicted to Candy Crush.

Well if it’s any consolation, you are joined by millions of others around the world. If you need more consolation, the addiction was recently a multi-page article in TIME magazine.

For those of you who are living in caves, Candy Crush Saga is an online game available on mobile and web platforms. It has various ‘levels’, each level cleared by busting three or more same colored candies present adjacent to each other on a grid. Your mission is to complete the level by busting candies to meet a particular target in a finite number of moves.

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Seems simple – so why the addiction?

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“You cannot set field for bad bowling”

If you are a Cricket fanatic, you definitely would have heard an analyst say the following during the course of a match:

“You cannot set field for bad bowling”

badfieldIf you don’t understand Cricket, here is a quick summary. There are 11 players a side. The batting side has two of his players out there to well – bat – and score runs. The bowling side has all 11 of their players on the cricket ground – placed strategically around the cricket pitch (the 22-yard rectangular area where the bowlers bowl and batsmen bat) to stop the scoring shots. The bowler has to deliver the ball in the right place – with the right line and length – to make sure that the batsman is forced to play where the fielders are. You set the field with a bowling strategy and plan based on the batsman’s strengths and the match situation. The side which scores the most runs wins.

There are just 10 players on the cricket field (other than the bowler). The ground is huge. Larger grounds are circular with a radius as large as 90 yards. If you don’t deliver the ball in the right places, the batsman has plenty of opportunity to hit around the ground – away from where the fielders are standing.

That is when the analysts say – “You cannot set field for bad bowling”. A bowler bowls a bad ball, the batsman hits at his will and everybody on the ground, other than the batsmen, look rather stupid!

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My Boss is an ‘Idiot’

“President Kennedy faced a foe more relentless than Khrushchev, just across the Potomac: the bellicose Joint Chiefs of Staff argued for the deployment of nuclear weapons and kept pressing to invade Cuba. Kennedy’s success in fending them off may have been his most consequential victory.”
From JFK vs. the Military

President John F. Kennedy was one of the youngest US Presidents – he was only 43 when he took the oath in 1961. He was also one of the youngest senators in the 1950s. He never held any executive office before he became President.

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Contrast it with his predecessor – President Dwight Eisenhower. He had been a five-star general in the US Army during WWII, Supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe and head of US Army before he became President. He was a WWII hero. He was President for 8 years. He was known to be a strong leader, ready to show military muscle as and when required and known for being the tough guy.

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Happy Birthday Thinking Spirits!

So, finally it’s a year of blogging. Happy Birthday to all of you!

My first real post was It Depends. It shows I was confused from the start. I had to even write a It Depends – 2 the following week.

And interestingly, this post is the 50th on the blog – almost 1 post per week. Good, but can be better.

And though Change Sucks, but change is good – so you can see a new theme for the blog!

In the spirit of last two posts on value of measurements, I decide to do some measurements of my own for the blog. And since Appearance Matters, I put them into infographics.

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I have managed to consolidate all writings into 5 core themes – Knowledge Work, Leadership, Communication, Productivity and Time Management. The 50 posts are distributed like:

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Work While You Sleep

Dave Ramsey is a very successful person. He is a writer, speaker and a radio show host. His books are best sellers. His radio show is heard on more than 500 stations in USA and Canada. He focuses on getting people out of debt and become wealthy. Dave is hugely popular. He is leader of his tribe (the Seth Godin version).

Dave is very eloquent and articulate too. He communicates exceptionally well. His listeners are usually in rapt attention. He completely adheres to the Communication is what the Listener does principle.

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Dave does a lot of TV & radio shows and live events. But Dave also sells products. He sells books. He sells DVDs and financial tools. While the media appearances are what brands him, it is the products in his store that are interesting. In a recent interview, he said that his books are what make money for him even as he sleeps. The product (books) are out there. The sales system is set up. The brand is established. He does not have to do anything. When he gets up in the morning, the money is in his bank account.

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