First a quote: “Go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see.” – Jimmy Buffett
Hello and happy Monday, (from a Jimmy Buffett “Parrot head” in Idaho)
I begin today’s missive with a question. Which mental mindset is worse?
Ready, fire… aim!
Ready, aim, aim, aim, aim… fire!
I’m willing to wager you have a personal affinity to one of those two statements. I’m also guessing you can easily, and quickly, come up with examples justifying the correctness of your natural biases and tendencies.
I know I’m too often guilty of the ready, fire, aim mindset. I just don’t feel hard-wired for analysis, details, or being patient. I have a natural inclination towards action and tend to see detailed analysis as a necessary, but important evil.
My suggestion today; both approaches have a place and have value and, both have dangerous downside risks.
Who hasn’t had the experience of having to redo work, or fix something because someone, somewhere, didn’t take the time up front to more thoroughly analyze and plan? Is there something on your “to do list” this week that might be the result of someone’s poor planning? I’m betting so. I find this to be a common phenomenon in the organizations I support.
For many of us, it seems we rarely have time for proper planning, and yet, we almost always find time to redo or fix what could have been done more “planfully” in the first place. Could a shortage of time be an easy excuse for poor planning? Perhaps James Baker was correct when he said:
“Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”
We know there is a downside risk to having a bias for action. History suggests that Titanic Captain Edward Smith was going too fast in waters where icebergs and dangerous conditions had been previously reported. It is also believed NASA flight managers disregarded warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching the Space Shuttle Challenger in record cold temperatures on January 28, 1986.
On the other side of this same coin, there is evidence to suggest the need for speed, agility, and risk-taking in the marketplace today. Mark Zuckerberg once said:
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a fast-changing world the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Risk-taking and agility of all kinds are two of the most sought-after qualities in the business environment today. The world demands all of us to be more agile. In workshops in which I have been involved in recent months, we have explored the topics of business agility, organizational agility, strategic agility, and leadership agility.
A person’s tendencies for action or analysis risk seems to be connected to their personality, organizational position and responsibilities, education, and experience. We often miss the fact that both perspectives have merit and tend to be complimentary of each other, even though they seem to be at opposite extremes.
Click here to read about former General Colin Powell’s 40-70 advice on this same topic.
In addition to Colin Powell’s advice, I offer the following thoughts:
- Know thyself – What are your tendencies? Do you tend to act too quickly without enough prior planning, or do you tend to do too much planning, for too long, before taking action? Knowing your tendencies will help you focus on a more balanced approach.
- Diversity of thought is critical – Surround yourself with people who have different mental models. Seek their counsel, listen to their concerns and advice. Are you prone to action? You will likely benefit from the thinking of someone who desires more analysis and vice versa.
- A strength over-used can be, and likely is, a weakness – If your strength is analysis and detailed planning, your organization needs your skills. And at the same time, when overused, that same skill will also become a limitation for you and a detriment to your organization. The same can be said about “a bias for action” as a strength.
- Both mindsets are important – Successful leaders can flex back and forth between the two mindsets as needed by a given situation. They are open to the feedback of others and yet willing to challenge the prevailing view.
Which approach comes most naturally for you? Which approach is an area of growth and development for you? Find a mentor whose style is the opposite of yours, you’ll both benefit from learning from each other.
How will you live, love, or lead, differently, or better, this week?
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
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- “Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.” – Swami Vivekananda
- “The cure to moving too fast is to just slow down.” – William E Coles
- “Analysis paralysis occurs when you overthink and underwork.” – Orrin Woodward
- “It’s almost always dangerous to be right too soon.” – David Gerrold
- “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” – Mark Twain
- “Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” – Napoleon Hill
- “Analysis paralysis is an epidemic that cripples countless dreams and great ideas. Be swift, decisive, and always move forward!” – Matthew Loop
- “Thinking too much leads to paralysis by analysis. It’s important to think things through, but many use thinking as a means of avoiding action.” – Robert Herjavec
- “Ready, fire, aim. Do it! Make it happen! Action counts. No one ever sat their way to success. – Tom Peters