While driving one day, I heard a politician make the following comment: “It’s better to yell at the ocean than to drown in it!”
I’ve since forgotten the context of the discussion he was having with the anchorwoman, but his statement resonated with me.
I’m certain you have been to many meetings where there is robust discussion regarding an action plan for meeting company goals. In these meetings, the people are excited, and they wholeheartedly believe that change is about to happen.
And then … the meeting ends. The attendees return to their pressing work … mostly putting out fires.
What happened to the action plan? Who is going to spearhead the work?
Who is going to yell at the ocean?
By foregoing the action items, the company begins to take on more and more water, and eventually it will succumb to the competitive forces in the marketspace. Like the Titanic, the water will eventually flow into the mission-critical compartments of the organization, and the only options remaining are lifeboats and the bottom of the ocean.
Yes … this outcome affects even the largest companies. I’m sure you remember Kodak, Circuit City, Enron, and Pets.com.
Yell! Action! Yell! Action!
I think you get the point here … do something!
The most successful companies hire people who are mostly focused on action. Of course, planning matters, but elaborate plans that have no follow-through are useless.
Let’s consider the following scenario …
MANAGER: “Okay, we have several excellent ideas regarding how to improve our customer service. Let’s brainstorm what we should do next.”
BILL: Yeah … that is awesome! I think we should create some type of plan and make sure we have 100% clarity before taking action. We can discuss these options for the next month or so. Once we know exactly what is possible, we can ask people to volunteer for the project. I like it!
Melanie: “I think Bill makes a good point here. However, I recommend we prioritize one of the action items and start working on it right away. By taking this approach, we can determine what is possible and get some momentum at the same time.”
Based on this scenario, which meeting participant do you think needs the life vest?
Right … Bill is treading water, and eventually he will need someone to pull him back to the shore.
Melanie, on the other hand, is action-oriented. She is not guaranteeing that the work performed will yield a successful outcome. Instead, she wants the work to begin. By doing so, the team is generating value, collecting feedback, and making changes based on what they are learning.
The concept I’m describing here is the Agile mindset. It works because the focus is on planning just enough to start doing work. The opposite is waiting until the situation is perfect, which will never happen.
Is there a Magic Formula to Success?
However, there’s no doubt that action is a key variable for any successful equation. Know that failure is an option when any action is taken, and that’s part of the game.
The alternative is to take a passive approach and to hope for the best. Do you remember Blockbuster?