In Growth & Profit

My daughter, Marisa, and my grandson, Tyler, recently spent four days with Marsha and me. Marisa said that being with us was a nice “mini-vacation” for her, but for Marsha and me it was a little slice of heaven.

Tyler is a 2-1/2 year old ball of energy from the time he awakens in the morning until he crashes into bed at night. The weather during his stay was unseasonably warm for Iowa and he took advantage of it to be outdoors for every minute of daylight. We went to the park and enjoyed the playground, climbed the hills, walked the trails, watched a train pass, and chased robins. Back at the house we blew bubbles, chased the football, threw the Frisbee, rode the neighbors motorized toy tractor, and hid from the birds.

There is a reason why toddlers should be under adult supervision. This child has no fear. He went to the edge of a walking bridge with the ground 6 feet below him (remember, that’s like jumping from the roof of your house to you and me) and he just vaulted at me. Of course I was paying attention (which is not always something I’ve been accused of) and caught him in my arms. But, I thought, what is he thinking? Doesn’t he harbor some doubt whether this man he’s with is capable of catching him? Doesn’t he consider the ‘what if’ scenarios of the moment? No. He just jumped to his Papa.

The whole event still has me thinking. “What would we attempt to do if we knew that we could not fail?” Would it liberate us so that we would immediately become risk averse? Or, as mature adults, would we still be “prudent” and opt for the safer alternative?

Max De Pree the former CEO of Herman Miller said, “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” Risk and fear of the unknown are the biggest obstacles companies face when trying to initiate change in their organizations.

As children we start out as creative and risk tolerant, always exploring and discovering new and exciting things. However, as we get older and more “educated” we learn to be more deliberate and more inclined to weigh our options before making a decision. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for examining alternatives before making a decision. What I often see with some companies and their leaders, however, is “analysis paralysis.”

Wikipedia defines decision making as “the mental processes (cognitive process) resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios.” The term “certainty” appears nowhere in the definition. It’s this drive to gain certainty that creates missed opportunities in so many companies. Some of this happens because leaders and management teams do not have good decision making processes which only leads to a lack of confidence in the ability to make good decisions – and so they often make no decision in the hope that “this too shall pass” or “if it ain’t broke yet, don’t fix it.”

In my training with Mindshop to become an accredited facilitator, I learned a valuable four-step process for decision making. It’s not rocket science and anyone – businesses and individuals – can master it. It starts with open-minded, “green light” brainstorming using a mind map. Secondly, all the great ideas that were identified in brainstorming are prioritized – i.e., the vital few must be separated from the trivial many. The third step is to develop your potential strategy and actions by conducting a force field analysis to drill the issues down so that you know you are dealing with the core issues and not just symptoms. Finally, use a one page plan to summarize the strategies and specific action items you’ve chosen in response to your problem and assign responsibility and target completion dates so that implementation is assured.

If you follow this four-step process, you will never be afraid to “jump like Tyler.” However, you will do so with the confidence that your action is based on a sound decision making process.

Fail Forward, change in organizations, obstacles to change

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