A couple of weeks ago I caught up with an old colleague and I was reminded about the cost of indecision. When faced with difficult decisions often the riskiest (and costliest) course of action is simply doing nothing.
During uncertain times, indecision seems to permeate across organisations like a heavy dark cloud. Under stress it is not necessary about whether there is a ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ mentality but one where a mood of procrastination is the prevailing wind. When evaluating which options to pursue there can be a tendency to ask for endless detail and diligence. This is often the cue for furious action to evaluate costs and benefits of what to do and yet more delays. Decisions get deferred, investment delayed and resources left frantically spinning in circles.
When experiencing delays like this you should always bear in mind the cost and impact of simply doing nothing. Complex issues and problems tend to create an environment of analysis paralysis. Failure to decide and take action is often more corrosive than not doing anything at all.
As we navigate through uncertain terms both politically, economically and socially we could all do well to remind us of the importance of being bold. One of the key leadership capabilities needs to be the ability of taking bold, courageous decisions. Richard Branson sums it up nicely with this quote: “It is only by being bold that you get anywhere.” To build on Branson’s point, failure to take the bold decision can leave you paralysed and in the end lose out more than taking a perceived ‘riskier’ change. Being bold, making decisions, moving forward keeps organisations and people on the move.
Whilst advocating making decisions for the sake of it is wrong. You always need to think and act methodically, rationally and applying sound evaluation. Being ‘bold’ should not get in the way of doing sound due diligence and analysis. But when faced with a decision to make it is always worth remembering the cost of doing nothing and that often an make the fear of the unknown more palatable.
The more that is written and spoken about the ‘future of work’, and specifically the impact digitisation is having on our lives, the more I think we need to rethink how we manage our careers and personal brands for what will be a much longer time than previous generations.
Recently, Josh Bersin wrote a brilliant piece on the ‘Future of Work’. Citing research he makes the point that now (not even in the future) the average baby boomer is likely to change careers on average 11.7 times. To compound this further it’s reported that millennials are changing jobs every two years. It’s fairly realistic to assume that during our working lives we need to be able to handle and manage more change than ever before. Individuals, organisations and society need to adapt to this era of constant change where career moves and changes are the norm.
As individuals – people need to take complete ownership of their careers and brands. You can’t manage your career on autopilot and expect an external agency (like your company) to manage your own career progression. We need to reflect on what motivates us, what we’re good at and learn new skills to adapt to changing circumstances. Personal reinvention will be a fundamental skill that needs to be mastered by individuals as we constantly evolve through multiple changes and moves. We need to be open to change. We need to have a growth mindset.
Organisations – need to provide more focus on how they support their people during what is a profound period of change and uncertainty. More emphasis needs to be placed on providing people the time, space and opportunities to facilitate changes in skills and experience to grow. Talent processes can’t be annual affairs, they need to be managed in the moment and balance both external and internal talent pools with a combination of both horizontal and vertical moves. A learning climate that helps facilitate life-long learning and empowers people to own their careers needs to be fostered as part of an organisation’s DNA.
Society – in a world of numerous career changes our education systems, at every level, need to provide the support and establish the basic foundations to enable people to benefit from this. You get the sense that the over-used question in schools of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” will need to be kicked into touch. Instead of focusing on linear career progression our educational systems need to instil the values of persistence and resilience to help people manage change. Education support needs to be provided at every level of society to enable life-long learning.
I think we need to think about how we create different chapters of experience that will reflect a rich tapestry of your working life (which is likely to be much longer than previous generations). The art will be on finishing one chapter and then moving onto the next one and being adept at constantly evolving your skills and experience. To support this both organisations and society need to adapt and support people to what will be a combination of an opportunity, risk and uncertainty.