Not too long ago I wrote a blog post “Give them enough rope…. they may surprise you.” This post concerned allowing organizations to potentially fail after you’ve tried to convince them to do the right thing. In that article, the end result was… well, I don’t want to give away the whole story, but – *spoiler alert* – the organization ended up doing the right thing.
But, could this scenario have ended up differently? You bet!
Have you ever been swimming or kayaking, and gotten caught in a current? For the untrained, the initial response is to fight the current to get back to shore. Choose this response, and you’ll expend a LOT of energy working hard to get back to shore, swimming or paddling with all your strength, potentially ending up exhausted and nowhere near where you wanted to be…or worse.
The trained response is to go WITH the current, waiting for a calmer time or area, saving your energy, allowing you to safely return to shore with less effort. Certainly, you may end up a good distance from where you wanted to be, but keeping yourself alive and fresh enough to tackle the return to shore is the goal. You can always get back to your original destination, even though it may take more time and effort.
So, how does this apply to the business world?
You’ve been contracted to work with an organization to improve its business processes and throughput. After much discussion the leadership of the organization has decided to travel a different path from what you’ve recommended. The workforce has already noticed the division between the two approaches. Rather than increase the confusion within the workforce and further dilute their efforts by trying to please both parties, you make the decision to let the organization’s leadership determine the path. Although you are reasonably sure their approach is not going to get them where they want to go, you hope for the best.
And so, you “go with the current”…staying engaged in case you’re needed, supporting them in their efforts, but not expending energy trying to change their path. So, what can happen?
Scenario #1. Well, the first possible scenario might be success in achieving their objectives: they make it to shore at the point they targeted. (Remember, there are a lot of ways to get to Miami from Pittsburgh. It’s just some of those ways may not be timely, efficient or cost effective!) You should be ready and willing to celebrate their achievement, even if it didn’t follow the path you recommended.
Scenario #2. However, there is a real chance they could experience another result: they exhaust themselves in their efforts and not only fail to meet their objectives, but their performance has actually decreased. (Hopefully, failing to meet their objectives is the only consequence and they don’t sink their business!) At that point, hopefully, leadership is more willing and ready to listen to your recommendations to get the organization back on track.
Having not expended your energy in fighting that current, you should have spent time analyzing their efforts and preparing recovery options. At this point, you’re in a great position to help find that lull in the current and assist your client in navigating to shore. The organization will most likely end up farther down the shoreline than they (and you) wanted to be. This may have resulted in missed customer orders, late deliveries, lost production, or lost revenue. The journey back to their targeted destination will most likely require more time and effort, and perhaps be more costly than if they had listened to your advice earlier.
However, the “lessons learned” may ultimately outweigh the detriment to the business. The next opportunity for organizational change may find them more willing to consider alternative recommendations from the start.
And all you had to do was float…
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